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AHF Challenges Merck Over Steep Price of Its New AIDS Drug, Isentress
Date:10/15/2007

Company Prices New HIV/AIDS Salvage Drug at $9,900 USD Per Patient Yearly Following FDA's Recent Approval of Isentress, Merck's New Integrase Inhibitor. AHF Decries Overall Price Spiral on New AIDS Drugs; Urges Restraint by Entire Pharmaceutical Industry in Pricing

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today criticized Merck and Co. Pharmaceuticals, for the announced price for its key new HIV/AIDS drug, Isentress (raltegravir), an integrase inhibitor approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Friday, and priced by the company at nearly $9,900 per patient yearly. Today's Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report noted that Isentress is an integrase inhibitor that "...decreases HIV viral loads after 24 weeks of use among HIV-positive people who have not responded to other treatments," according to a study published in the April 14 online edition of the journal Lancet."

"We commend Merck for the development of this new HIV/AIDS drug that shows particular promise as a salvage therapy, but urge the company to reconsider its action and set the price of this lifesaving medicine so it is affordable," said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President. "The steep cost of this new drug is symptomatic of the overall price spiral of AIDS drugs. As with many other AIDS drugs before it, the price is simply out of reach for most AIDS patients, and Merck and other companies' pricing for their AIDS drugs threatens to further limit the ability of Medicaid and AIDS Drug Assistance Programs nationwide to provide crucial medications to its patient populations."

According to a Reuters news article, "The company (Merck) said it would charge about $27 per day, or $9,855 annually, for the drug. Steep prices for AIDS drugs have been criticized by patients and advocacy groups, who say they deter use of lifesaving drugs."

In 2004, Roche & Trimeris created an international uproar when its drug Fuzeon, also widely used as a second or third-line salvage therapy, was first introduced and priced at $20,000 USD per year, per patient--far above what analysts had expected.

AHF's Weinstein added, "AIDS drugs are priced at the maximum the market will bear, regardless of production costs. Other drug makers continue to follow suit with equally high prices, and access to care and treatment is the casualty. We challenge both Merck and the pharmaceutical industry as a whole to set pricing and access policies for these potentially lifesaving AIDS drugs in a manner that illustrates its concern for patient quality of life, rather than contributing to the public's growing crisis of confidence in it."

About AHF

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the US' largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 61,000 individuals in 15 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at http://www.aidshealth.org


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SOURCE AIDS Healthcare Foundation
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