AIDS group launches advocacy campaign pressuring the drug giant to heed President Obama’s call for drug companies to “do their part” to help Americans get access to life-saving AIDS treatments
LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- As part of its ongoing campaign to lower AIDS drug prices and increase access, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today announced that it is launching a new advocacy campaign calling for the drug company Merck to lower its prices for cash-strapped AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs). ADAPs, a network of federal and state funded programs that provide life-saving HIV treatments to low income, uninsured, and underinsured individuals living with HIV/AIDS nationwide, are facing a severe financial crisis that has left as many as 10,000 people with AIDS without access to treatment.
The campaign comes days after Gilead Sciences, Inc., the largest manufacturer of AIDS drugs in the U.S., announced it has agreed to provide additional discounts to the programs. Gilead is the second company, following Boehringer Ingelheim, to agree to additional discounts for ADAPs.
On December 1st — World AIDS Day — President Obama proclaimed the need for all stakeholders to do more to help the struggling ADAP programs, saying: “The federal government can’t do this alone, so I’m also calling on state governments, and pharmaceutical companies, and private foundations to do their part to help Americans get access to all the life-saving treatments.”
“We want to state loud and clear that Merck’s refusal to lower its prices for ADAPs is a death sentence for people with AIDS,” said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President. “Our campaign will feature a series of actions near Merck headquarters in New Jersey, including print and television advertisements, protests at Merck’s main campus, direct mail, and contact with Merck investors,” said Weinstein. Weinstein added: “At a cost to ADAPs of roughly $8,000-$9,000 per person per year, Merck’s Isentress is one the highest priced AIDS drugs in the US today. Merck employees and the public should know about the company’s shameful pricing and policies on AIDS.”
“Gilead and other companies have agreed to provide additional discounts to ADAPs, and the President has asked the companies to do more to help these programs. There’s no reason for Merck to refuse other than greed,” said Tom Myers, Chief of Public Affairs for AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
The first ad in AHF’s campaign will be a “Merck: Breaking the Bank” direct mail postcard sent to the communities surrounding Merck’s headquarters in Whitehouse Station, NJ. The postcard highlights that Merck has made billions of dollars on AIDS drugs, lending to a nearly $100 billion market capitalization for the company, yet it refuses to lower prices for the publicly funded ADAPs.
As part of its strategy to raise the pricing issues with Merck investors, in October AHF testified before the board of CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) about the pricing policies of Merck and other drug companies. At that meeting the CalPERS board agreed to contact Merck and others about their pricing policies in light of the financial difficulties experienced by ADAPs. The CalPERS action followed the move by California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, and state Treasurer John Chiang, to write to Merck and other companies and urge them to provide additional discounts to ADAPs.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and services to more than 124,000 individuals in 23 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean the Asia/Pacific region and Eastern Europe. www.aidshealth.org
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