May 15, 2003
The drug's price -- which Durham, N.C.-based Trimeris and its Swiss partner Roche say is justified by the high cost of manufacturing and by the nearly $600 million spent developing it -- has sparked concerns that cash-strapped state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, which provide drugs to HIV patients who lack health insurance, would not cover its cost. ADAPs in 13 states, including North Carolina, have had to establish waiting lists or otherwise restrict patients' access to drugs. Roche agreed to deeper than usual discounts on Fuzeon and other medications to ADAPs -- a move that has helped persuade 11 state ADAPs, including North Carolina's, to cover Fuzeon so far. Walter Capone, Trimeris' vice president of commercial operations, said he expects close to half the nation's ADAPs to cover Fuzeon within the next few months.
Steve Sherman, coordinator of North Carolina's ADAP, said there are patients in the state's program who "really need this drug to maintain their health." To contain costs, the program is initially capping at 25 the number of patients who can receive Fuzeon and is limiting the drug to patients not doing well on their current regimens. North Carolina's ADAP had 170 patients on a waiting list in April, but it eliminated the waiting list this month.
News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
05.14.03; David Ranii