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Gilead under fire for AIDS drugs price rises

World News | January 11, 2013


Kevin Grogan

Gilead under fire for AIDS drugs price rises

Gilead Sciences has been criticised by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation for price hikes, especially on key treatments for the disease.

The AHF, the USA’s largest and oldest AIDS support organisation, cites a report from the broker Cowen & Co which quoted ‘third-party sources’ that Gilead’s best-selling three-in-one AIDS drug combination Atripla (efavirenz/emtricitabine/tenofovir) increased 6.9% to a wholesale acquisition cost (WAC) of $1,878.23 per patient, per month. Emtriva (emtricitabine) has risen 5.5% to $478.45 and the WAC price of Viread (tenofovir) has gone up 6.0% to $771.39.

AHF also makes reference to the investor website iStockAnalyst.com which reported that Gilead “has significant undervalued opportunities related to its fixed-dose combination strategy in HIV. That site states that "by combining multiple pills into one, Gilead improves compliance, a major issue in HIV treatment and creates a significant advantage over competitors' multi-pill regimens".

However, the iStockAnalyst report also notes the case of Abbott Laboratories' Norvir (ritonavir), which saw the firm suffer negative publicity from patient advocacy and physician groups, as well as several lawsuits from payors, competitors, and physicians. "Despite the pressure, Norvir pricing remains high,” it states.

Michael Weinstein, AHF's president, said the fact that Gilead is "starting the new year off with price hikes averaging 6% on these four key HIV/AIDS medications does not bode well for AIDS patients and the programmes and insurers that serve and care for them". He added that Gilead’s record profits "derive mainly from the corporate welfare of government care programmes" and as "tax dollars ultimately pay for most of these drugs, we continue to ask Gilead to show even a modicum of restraint in its drug pricing, particularly for programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, private insurers and other payers".

Mr Weinstein goes on to say that "we spoke out against Abbott’s price gouging on Norvir years ago and we will continue to speak out - now directly to Gilead - about AIDS drug pricing, which literally may be a matter of life and death for those excluded because of the high costs".

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