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Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D.

Price and Politics

By August 24, 2012

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HIV treatment regimens can be complex. People on combined antiretroviral therapy(cART), may have to take a number of pills throughout the day, carefully coordinating timing with meals. Because of this, there has been ongoing excitement over drugs that combine several medications into a single pill. These regimens make it easier for patients to take their medications properly. They are also, potentially, hugely profitable for drug companies. Instead of doctors mixing and matching regimens for each patients, potentially choosing a competitor's products, drug companies get to lock in a patient to their company and their drugs.

There are currently two single pill regimens on the market - Atripla and Complera. Gilead, however, is currently in the midst of the approval process for a new option. Where the two existing medications combine three antiviral drugs into a single pill, Gilead's Quad pill combines four. So far, research suggests that it will likely be both high effective and acceptable to patients. What it might not be is particularly affordable. A group of Democratic congressmen recently stepped up to say something about that.

According to The Body, 14 congressmen wrote a letter to Gilead. In it, they asked the company to price the new drug at sustainable levels when it is approved. Although the pharmaceutical company certainly has a right to price the drug exorbitantly, they almost certainly don't need to in order to profit from it. Given that the drug is likely to turn out to be the Next Big Thing in HIV treatment, and people will probably be on it for years if not decades, the company would probably do pretty well just pricing it at reasonable levels and gobbling up the market share. Plus, they'd gain a lot of good will from people working in HIV care by being more aggressive about keeping treatment costs in line.

August 26, 2012 at 11:16 am
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