Drug Price Increases Leading To Difficulties In HIV Treatment

Drug Price Increases Leading To Difficulties In HIV Treatment

The U.S. government has a goal to end the HIV epidemic entirely by 2030, but the rising cost of prescriptions is making this next to impossible.

According to a new study, the cost of HIV antiviral treatment has increased by 34 percent since 2012. This is four times the inflation rate. Even though there are generics available, the cost is still $36,000 per patient annually.

In 2012, the cost for the initial treatment range from $25,000 to $35,000. In 2018, the range rose to $36,000 to $42,000 – a 53 percent increase or six times the inflation rate.

Harvard Medical School Professor of Medicine Dr. Rochelle Walensky said there is a movement in the industry to raise drug process with advertising being done to ensure people using older drugs buy the newer, more expensive medications.

Walensky said the federal government idea to end the HIV epidemic is good, as it hopes to reduce the number of new HIV cases by 90 percent by 2030. However, in order to meet the goal, the U.S. must increase its viral suppression by 33 percent, and this requires spending around $36 billion a year on just the medication.

Walensky said Medicaid and private insurances cover these drugs, but not everybody has insurance. She said, in these cases, the public is actually paying for them.

She said a reason for the increase in prices is the money – from the government and private entities such as the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and expanded Medicaid. The other reason, the biggest reason of all possibilities, is the lack of government oversight to control the prices.

Walensky said the public must be mindful of these drug costs because they are constantly and quickly increasing. She said this is not acceptable, and if the mission is to end the epidemic, then something must be done to lower these prices to make it affordable and make the end goal come to fruition.

PhRMA spokesman Andrew Powaleny, who represents the drug industry, said HIV drug breakthroughs have helped to lower the death rate. However, they don’t mean anything is the drug price is too high where people cannot buy them.

Powaleny said the industry is making efforts to ensure patients can afford the HIV medications. For example, patients can take advantage of rebates and discounts new research doesn’t address. He said the industry is attempting to ensure the savings are passed onto patients when they are paying for their drugs.

He said biopharmaceutical companies are trying to overhaul the healthcare system by improving affordability for patients. He said the industry wants to see a cap on the out-of-pocket costs and lower co-insurance to 20 percent (from 25 percent).

Powaleny said there’s also a need to eliminate supply chain payments from a medicine’s price list.

Mark Riegel, MD
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