Ft. Lauderdale -- As the State of Florida grapples with a budget shortfall that has crippled its AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) and forced the state to potentially disenroll 350 Florida patients already on ADAP as well as place nearly 2,400 low-income Floridians on waiting lists to access lifesaving medications, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has proposed an innovative plan to help state health officials and displaced HIV/AIDS patients bridge the transition to private patient assistance programs run by the major pharmaceutical companies. AHF, through its AHF Pharmacy, will supply up to $1 million in free AIDS drugs to those disenrolled and wait listed HIV/AIDS patients on medication therapy as those patients wait for their medications to be delivered from private patient assistance programs. This will avoid any interruption in lifesaving medication therapy while patients transition onto patient assistance programs.
"Through AHF's offer to fill prescriptions for medications to bridge supply gaps for any displaced Florida ADAP patients, we hope to help ease the state's AIDS drug crisis and get vulnerable Florida AIDS patients off waiting lists and back on to lifesaving antiretroviral treatment," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "We have initially proposed offering five-day supplies of medications to patients, which should be ample time for private drug companies to confirm patient eligibility for their respective patient assistance programs, or time enough to spur greater efficiency among those drug companies whose enrollment protocols may be unnecessarily cumbersome."
"The program AHF Pharmacy is currently proposing will be implemented at no cost to patients, the State of Florida, and the pharmaceutical companies," said Michael Kahane, Southern Bureau Chief for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "AHF's proposed program is only for patients on Florida's waiting list and for those 350 who will be disenrolled due to the funding crisis. AHF Pharmacy will dispense the drugs to patients at its pharmacy locations. In addition, AHF Pharmacy will provide free shipping and delivery services for patients who need it. With more than one-half the total number of people on ADAP waiting lists nationwide, we see this as a practical short-term solution to help bridge Florida's growing AIDS drug crisis."
The AIDS Drug Assistance Program is a Federal/State program that pays for life-saving AIDS drugs for low-income Americans. Nationwide, ADAPs serve over 165,000 people, accounting for one third of people on AIDS treatment in the U.S. Unfortunately, the need for these programs expands every year, as more and more people become infected and diagnosed with HIV/AIDS; each year thousands of newly diagnosed HIV patients turn to ADAPs because they cannot afford their lifesaving medicines.
In August 2010, in a previous effort to address the AIDS drug crisis in Florida, AHF proposed a program that would have streamlined the drug donation process by centralizing the availability of free treatment for patients at the pharmacy level. At the time, AHF proposed utilizing available resources -- free donated medications from all the major AIDS drug companies -- coupled with the streamlined dispensing of the drugs via AHF's own and other pharmacies located throughout Florida. While state officials expressed optimism and interest in the August proposal, all major pharmaceutical companies rejected the proposal out of hand.
AHF had first reached out to Florida state health officials with its initial proposal for the centralized drug donation/pharmacy services plan late summer last summer; AHF then contacted the seven leading AIDS drug companies with its proposal via letter. The drug companies rejected AHF's proposal. The drug companies, and their existing patient assistance programs include: Abbott Laboratories (Abbott Patient Assistance Foundation); Boehringer-Ingelheim (Cares Foundation Patient Assistance Program); Bristol-Myers Squibb (Access Virology Program); Gilead Sciences (the Advancing Access Program and Atripla Patient Assistance Program); Merck (HIV Support Program); Tibotec (Johnson & Johnson Patient Assistance Foundation) and ViiV Healthcare (the Bridges to Access Program).
On June 1st 2010, Florida became the twelfth state -- and the first high-prevalence state, as it ranks third in the nation for the number of reported cases -- to institute a waiting list for patients to receive lifesaving AIDS drugs. As of December 10th, there were 2,396 Floridians on the state's ADAP waiting list out of a total of 4,543 people on waiting lists in nine states.