Removing Barriers to Affordable HIV Therapy

Published Online: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
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A proposed piece of legislation would reward manufacturers who forgo patent rights and allow new HIV drugs to go direct to the generic market, according to an article on

The legislation, introduced by Senator Bernard Sanders (I, VT), aims to close the price gap between American patients and patients in developing nations. According to the article, HIV drugs that cost hundreds of dollars in developing nations can cost tens of thousands of dollars in the United States.

The cost prohibits many patients with HIV or AIDS from receiving treatment, particularly when patients are uninsured, according to Sanders.

“The U.S. has by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders said in a press release on his website. “The simple fact is that the prices of patent medicines are a significant barrier to access to health for millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans and people die because of it.”

Sanders introduced the legislation at the Senate subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging on May 15, 2012. The proposed bill, S. 1138, would create a $3 billion annual prize fund to reward drug makers who develop new HIV or AIDS treatments and allow those treatments to go directly to the generic market, according to Politico. Sanders’ website notes that the prize fund would be funded by the federal government and private health insurers proportionate to their share of the HIV and AIDS drug market.

Drug makers need to make a profit in order to bring HIV and AIDS drugs to the market, according to Politico. In addition, the profits made from drug sales in developed nations enable the manufacturers to offer the reduced prices in undeveloped nations, they stated.

“It’s expensive to come up with these medicines and we need to recover the costs,” Mark Grayson, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, told Politico. Patient assistance programs and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which is funded by federal and state dollars, provide help to many patients with HIV or AIDS, he added.

Many states have instituted cost-containment strategies for their assistance programs, however, including program waiting lists, Politico stated. Although drug makers offered a total of $1.2 billion from 2003 to 2010, medication costs average around $10,000 per patient per year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States. About 50,000 are infected each year, and about 10,000 people die as a result of the disease annually.

“The bottom line is that the goal of our laws and policies for medicines must be to develop drugs as quickly as possible, drugs that are the most effective we can find for the diseases people are facing, and to get them out to every person who needs them as soon as possible,” Sanders said.

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