European Activists Denounce Unbearable HIV Drug Pricing Increase

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HIV Drug Prices

European treatment activists condemned the ever-increasing cost of life-saving antiretroviral treatment at the 10th European AIDS Conference today.

"HIV drug prices are getting higher and higher. This threatens to cause European HIV patients serious difficulties accessing their medication in the near future," said David Haerry, one of the chairs of the European Community Advisory Board, a working group of EATG.

"This has been a trend since the early days of HIV treatment, but it has accelerated in the last couple of years; nowadays it seems unstoppable." Haerry was commenting on the announcement by drug company Boehringer Ingelheim that Aptivus, its recently registered protease inhibitor, will cost up to 24 euros a day in Europe - though adding in the other drugs needed for this compound to be effective will at least triple that price.

Introducing new drugs into HIV treatment must be a cost-effective use of national health budgets. The new drugs should be more effective, work against drug-resistant virus and have fewer side effects that need managing.

However the new drugs are also more expensive, and with the number of people living with HIV in Europe likely to continue rising for the foreseeable future, their cost to national health systems threatens to become unsustainable.

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Aptivus is the latest of a series. Sustiva/Stocrin (BMS/Merck), Viread (Gilead), Kaletra (Abbott), Fuzeon (Roche) and Reyataz (BMS) - each of them previously set a new price record in its class when it was licensed. The HIV drug bill is increasing as more Europeans with HIV are living longer.

"Unless there is a fair drug price policy for all disease areas, including HIV, national health systems are going to bear an excessive burden," explained Wim Vandevelde, a member of EATG's Board of Directors.

"This case is not hypothetical: EU countries such as Belgium or regions like the Basque Country in Spain are already restricting access to HIV medication for reasons of cost."

EATG Board member Smiljka Malesevic comes from Serbia. She said: "Even if these drugs are licensed in Central and Eastern Europe, they are completely unaffordable for the vast majority of patients in the part of the world currently experiencing the fastest-growing epidemic. This threatens lives at a time these new drugs should be saving them."

The scaling up of HIV drug prices is leading local reimbursement authorities to question the entire licensing system and the value and authority of the EMEA, the European Medicine Evaluation Agency. This is contributing further to an already fragmented picture of access to HIV drugs. What is happening is against the spirit of the European Union, says the EATG.

Nikos Dedes, Chairperson of the EATG, concluded: "We call all stakeholders, companies, regulatory agencies, governments and patient groups - to treat this issue with urgency. We must collaborate on a serious policy for a sustainable HIV drug pricing system in Europe. This is a duty we owe to people living with HIV and to our society."

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