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Boehringer Ingelheim, Gilead Agree to AIDS Drug Price Freeze.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation Urges Drug Giants Merck, Tibotec, Pfizer and Others to Follow Suit, Suspend Price Increases and Expand Access to Lifesaving Antiretroviral Medications

LOS ANGELES -- AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) -- the largest US-based AIDS organization and operator of free AIDS treatment clinics in the US, Africa, Asia and Latin America/Caribbean -- today applauded decisions by Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) and Gilead Sciences, Inc. to freeze prices on antiretroviral medications purchased by government agencies. This commitment by the two companies came on the heels of a written request by AHF, urging a suspension of price increases on antiretroviral medications (ARVs)--particularly for government programs, many of which have been unable to expand access despite modest funding increases due to regular increases on the price of ARVs.

In a letter dated March 11, 2008 and sent to Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), Gilead, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Merck & Co., Inc., Pfizer Inc., Roche Pharmaceuticls and Tibotec Therapeutics, AHF stated that as a result of regular drug price increases "HIV/AIDS assistance programs will essentially be flat funded and unable to provide access to additional people in need of lifesaving drugs."

"We commend Boehringer Ingelheim and Gilead for this precedent-setting move to suspend price increases for lifesaving AIDS drugs and for helping to make AIDS treatment more affordable and accessible," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "We urge the other drug companies to follow BI's and Gilead's lead and to freeze price increases that create an unnecessary burden on an already overburdened public health system and keep lifesaving drugs out reach for those who need them."

Of the ten recipients of AHF's letter, only BI and Gilead replied with a commitment to freeze prices. AHF has yet to receive a response of any kind from Merck, GSK and Abbott.

BI's response letter states: "Boehringer Ingelheim is committed to ensuring that patients who need Aptivus (tipranavir) and Viramune (nevirapine) tablets and oral suspension have access to the medications...Keeping patients in mind, we have approached price increases responsibly...Three years passed before a price increase was considered for Aptivus (since accelerated approval in June 2005). Boehringer Ingelheim is offering an additional 12-month price freeze to state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) effective May 1, 2008."

A representative from Gilead also responded in writing with a promise to freeze price increases, citing concerns brought to their attention by AHF, as well as by the Fair Pricing Coalition. The letter states: "Today, we share your concern regarding antiretroviral cost pressures faced by government payers, particularly during times of limited budget increases and flat funding. In keeping with our commitment to fair pricing and broad access, and to further enhance our price protections for ADAP, FSS (Federal Supply Service) and PHS (U.S. Public Health System) payers, we will suspend price increases to these government payers through December 31, 2010."

Price increases for ARVs in the United States have consistently eroded funding increases received by Federal and State HIV/AIDS treatment programs. For example, earlier this year the President's fiscal 2009 budget called for a moderate funding increase for Part B of the HIV/AIDS CARE Act that included an additional $6 million for AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP). However, this additional money is expected to be largely offset by an estimated 2.88% ARV price increase, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Responses from Tibotec, Roche, Pfizer and BMS reiterated the companies' commitment to increasing access, but made no specific pledge with regard to a suspension. A representative from Tibotec's Global Professional Affairs Dept. wrote: "Regrettably, we are not in a position to provide any assurances with regard to future pricing decisions."

AHF's letter noted: "There is no real justification for these price increases as many of the ARVs have been on the U.S. market for 5 to 10 years. The development cost for these drugs have already been recouped and the cost of producing them is a mere fraction of the prices at which they were sold."

About AHF

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the nation's largest non-profit HIV/AIDS organization. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 70,000 individuals in 22 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at www.aidshealth.org
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Date:Jun 3, 2008
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