AHF to host protest targeting Merck over the steep price for its key HIV/AIDS drug, Isentress

“Now that it has been approved for first-line treatment, there is no justification for Merck to price Isentress three times higher than other first-line AIDS drugs. It is pure greed”

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) will host a protest Tuesday, January 12, at 10:30am targeting Merck and Co. Pharmaceuticals over the steep price for its key HIV/AIDS drug, Isentress, during the 28th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Isentress (raltegravir) is an integrase inhibitor originally approved in October 2007 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a salvage therapy for patients who are resistant to other AIDS drugs. In July, 2009, the FDA expanded its approval of the drug for use as a first line course of treatment of HIV/AIDS, a move which both greatly expands the US market for the drug and makes Merck’s Isentress the most expensive first line treatment. Initial FDA approval in 2007 required use of Isentress only for patients for whom other drug regimens had failed; the expansion of FDA approval of Isentress for first line use, allows the drug to now be used for newly diagnosed HIV positive individuals who have never been on any antiretroviral treatment.

“Now that it has been approved for first-line treatment, there is no justification for Merck to price Isentress three times higher than other first-line AIDS drugs. It is pure greed,” said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President. “The unwarranted price of this drug is putting an unbearable strain on taxpayer funded State AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP) and the thousands of people who rely on them. The limited funding available for these programs is being exhausted by the high cost of Isentress and other newer AIDS drugs. Several states are now unable to provide treatment to additional people who need it, and existing ADAP clients are at risk for losing access to their meds.”

AHF protestors will carry signs and banners stating “Shame on Merck” during the company’s presentation at the Healthcare Conference. “We’re here to let people know that Merck’s greed is causing great harm to people with HIV/AIDS,” said Jessie Gruttadauria, AHF Director of Public Affairs. “People are feeling the impact right now and lives are being put at risk. Hundreds of people have been denied access to their treatment because their state ADAP can no longer afford to provide it. These individuals now face a potentially fatal interruption in their treatment. This cannot continue. Merck needs to lower the price of Isentress immediately.”

The AHF protest is part of an ongoing campaign over Merck’s pricing for Isentress. This action comes on the heels of an inquiry into Merck’s pricing strategy for Isentress by the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the nation’s largest public pension fund. Advocates from AHF testified before members of the CalPERS Investment Committee about the impact of the high price of the drug on people with AIDS in California and across the country. In response to AHF’s testimony, the committee agreed to make an inquiry.

Merck’s current retail price (Average Wholesale Price) for Isentress is $12,868 per patient per year—making it the most expensive of any antiretroviral (ARV) recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for first-line treatment. The price for many federally-funded, state-run and cash-strapped AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP) is $8,088 per patient per year—three times more expensive than commonly prescribed ARVs for first-line treatment.

Comments

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
You might also like... ×
Researchers develop a new, promising treatment for HIV