Price Increases for Older HIV Drugs Spark Outrage

List prices for Complera and Stribild continue to rise for HIV treatment.

Gilead Sciences recently raised the prices of 6 HIV medications in an attempt to switch patients to newer treatments, sparking outrage among AIDS activists.

The price hike is Gilead’s second this year, and the decision deviated from their typical pattern, reported BioPharma Dive.

“Gilead typically takes on price increase each year on its HIV products,” Phil Nadeau, Cowen analyst, said in the report. “Therefore, today’s price increases deviate from the historical pattern.”

The list prices for Complera and Stribild increased by 7%, to $2508 and $3469 per month, respectively, following price hikes of 7% and 5% last January. Meanwhile, the list prices for 2 newer versions of the drugs, Odefsey and Genvoya, remained the same.

According to STAT, Odefsey is now priced at a premium to Complera, while the gap between Stribild and Genvoya has widened.

The price boost in older HIV medications is rooted in Gilead’s strategizing to get physicians to prescribe newer drugs and for patients to take them, according to STAT. This is due in part to older treatments containing the compound tenofovir (TDF), which has a patent that will expire in December 2017, the report noted.

Gilead is replacing TDF with the modified version TAF, which has a patent that will not expire until May 2022. TAF has been found to be more potent and less likely to cause adverse events, such as bone damage or kidney toxicity, reported STAT.

However, AIDS activists are arguing that the manufacturer knew of the differences, but purposely delayed testing TAF in humans for several years to extend patent protection as long as possible. These allegations came to light in a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), but Gilead has denied it.

“This sort of behavior from Gilead, alas, is not surprising,” James Krellenstein, member of ACT UP New York, told STAT. “As we saw with their other practices in the development of TAF and the pricing of (Sovaldi, the first hepatitis C medicine that Gilead began selling in early 2014), patient choice and safety takes a back seat when it comes to the company’s bottom line.”

Tim Horn, HIV project director of the Treatment Action Group and member of the Fair Pricing Coalition, told STAT the older HIV drugs are still considered a safe and effective treatment for HIV. He added that as patients and payers struggle with rising drug costs, Gilead is worsening the burden by inflating the costs of older competitor treatments.