In response, some drugmakers are taking steps to lower pricing, such as providing greater rebates, according to The AIDS Institute advocacy group. But AHF says Bristol is not. "...the high price charged for Reyataz is contributing to a crisis that has left thousands of patients without access to lifesaving AIDS treatment," AHF president Michael Weinstein wrote to Bristol ceo Lamberto Andreotti (see this).
The average wholesale for Reyataz is $13,046 a year, according to AHF, which adds that other “commonly precribed” first-line AIDS drugs are priced $3,000 to $5,400 less. AHF also accuses the drugmaker of raising the price of Reyataz several times - since it was approved in 2003, the price has increased more than 25 percent.
“Every other major AIDS drug company has responded to this crisis by agreeing to increase their assistance to ADAPs in the form of price reductions, increased rebates and other meaningful contributions. However, BMS has refused to do its part. This is unacceptable,” Weinstein wrote. "ADAPs cannot continue to subsidize the high price of Reyataz at the expense of people’s lives.” And so AHF has banned Bristol reps from its clinics, which serve some 11,000 people; the organization banned Merck reps earlier this year, too (look here).
The step follows a recent protest campaign in which AHF mailed postcards to the homes of Bristol-Myers Squibb employees in the Princeton, NJ, area - where the drugmaker has its main laboratory complex - that feature a picture of Andreotti stuffing a $20 bill into his pocket as many more bills fall out of the sky behind him (back story).
A Bristol spokeswoman directed us to the drugmaker's web site, where one can read that the co-pay benefit program for eligible Reyatz patients with out-of-pocket costs under private insurance coverage was increased. "Following feedback from the HIV community, we enhanced our Reyataz and Sustiva co-pay benefit program, and the program now covers the first $200 of co-pay costs for eligible patients every month for up to one year." Of course, more people are turning to state ADAP programs as they lose their jobs and health insurance, so those people are encouraged to the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. There was no comment when asked about AHF banning Bristol reps from its clinics.