Merck discounts Isentress for cash-strapped ADAPs

Merck ($MRK) became the sixth drug company to provide new discounts on AIDS treatments for cash-strapped state drug-assistance programs, or ADAPs. The company is cutting the price on Isentress beginning Jan. 1, and the discount will remain in force through 2013, Merck said in a statement. The discount amount wasn't disclosed.

Drug-assistance programs serve 200,000 people, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors told Bloomberg, but more than 4,000 people in 12 states are on waiting lists, thanks to budget constraints and high unemployment. "With the economy the way it is there are many more people without jobs and many more people who are qualifying for the programs," the organization's deputy executive director, Murray Penner, told the news service. "The need has ballooned."

In a statement, Merck said it has been in talks with the ADAP Crisis Task Force for the last few months. "It has become clear within the last year that previous [pricing] agreements coupled with current federal and state funding were not enough to sustain ADAPs until 2014," the company said. "Merck's latest response ... reflects the continuing fiscal circumstances in the states and the unmet needs of people with HIV."

The other drugmakers that have discounted AIDS meds for state programs are Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), Gilead Sciences ($GILD), Boehringer Ingelheim and the Pfizer/GlaxoSmithKline joint venture ViiV Healthcare.

- read the Merck release
- see the Bloomberg story

ALSO: Merck got the FDA nod for wider use of Isentress, in combination with other antiretroviral drugs, in children and adolescents. Report