Drug companies put profits before patientsposted Wed, 30 Nov 2011
The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, whether you support it or not, has helped to raise some important questions lately about corporate greed. The pharmaceutical industry, though not directly targeted by OWS, has consistently put profits before people, just as the financial industry has. A prime example of this is pharma’s monopoly on life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs.
Nearly all of the leading HIV/AIDS medications in the U.S. are patent protected, which means that generic or lower cost versions of the drugs are simply not available. People with HIV and AIDS who can’t afford their the high cost of their prescription drugs sometimes turn to international online pharmacies to import their needed medications from other countries. Through importation, patients can get better prices on brand name drugs or even access generic versions of the medications that have been approved elsewhere (for even cheaper).
In recent months, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been staging “die-in” protests at the headquarters of major pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson and Gilead Sciences Inc. to draw attention to the excessive cost of these drugs. Atripla, for example, is Gilead’s blockbuster HIV drug. It costs the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), a federal and state program that helps lower income individuals afford their needed medications, $10,000 per patient each year. Those who don’t have access to ADAP could easily pay twice as much out of pocket for that or other comparable drugs.
We'd like to thank Will Wilson, RxRights advocate, for bringing this issue to our attention. He contacted us and told us his compelling personal story. Will started out with a good job and insurance but quickly ended up in medical bankruptcy due to the high cost of the HIV medication he needs to stay alive. Will has made substantial sacrifices, including taking a low paying job that barely allows him to make ends meet, to qualify for the ADAP. Many others aren’t so lucky—ADAP has a waiting list of 7,000 people.
We think it’s shameful to put patents and profits before patients. People on the waiting list for ADAP are dying—and pharmaceutical companies are standing by and letting it happen.
December 1 is World AIDS Day - Find out more about what you can do and the actions people are taking around the globe to raise awareness and mark the date.
Watch a powerful video that chronicles the lives of real people affected by the high price of HIV/AIDS drugs.