State cutbacks prompt Gilead to cut HIV prices

Call it another trickle-down effect of the Great Recession. Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD) says it's launching new discounts and an extended pricing freeze on its HIV meds to combat budget shortfalls in AIDS assistance programs across the country.

As of last month, there were more than 1,100 patients on AIDS assistance waiting lists in 10 states--and those lists have grown by a factor of 10 over the past year, according to the San Jose Business Journal. Just 99 individuals stood in the same queue in May 2009. Plus, 16 states have tightened access to drug-purchasing assistance by cutting drugs from their formularies, limiting spending on AIDS meds, and tightening up eligibility based on income.

So here's what Gilead's doing: Additional discounts on Truvada, Viread and Emtriva for those assistance programs, plus an extended price freeze on those drugs, for one thing. For another, Gilead is expanding its own assistance program to make more patients eligible for help. 

Several drugmakers have expanded their patient assistance programs in the face of economic woes around the world. Pfizer, for one, instituted a "free meds" program for those who've lost their jobs. GlaxoSmithKline has offered free vaccines to uninsured patients, and it's giving 50 percent discounts to patients who don't have prescription drug coverage.

- see the Gilead release
- read the SJBJ story