Bristol-Myers Slammed By AIDS Group Over Pricing

Bristol-Myers Slammed By AIDS Group Over Pricing

January 16th, 2008 7:20 am By Ed Silverman

The Fair Pricing Coalition, an independent community group that works to contain the prices of drugs used to treat HIV, is condemning price increases announced this week by Bristol-Myers Squibb, which failed to meet with the umbrella group, as most other drugmakers do, to discuss pricing.

The increases, which ranged from 6.9 percent to 9 percent for all of Bristol’s HIV products “are well beyond any increases in the Consumer Price Index and above the increases taken by any other company”, says Martin Delaney of the FPC, in a statement. “These drugs have been on the market for several years and their development costs have long been recovered. There is no justification for this kind of increase.”

Another FPC spokesperson, Lynda Dee of the AIDS Treatment Activist Coalition and AIDS Action Baltimore, further stated “This is exactly the kind of behavior that gives the pharmaceutical industry such a bad name with the public. Bristol is doing very little if any further research in HIV and overall has poor relations with the patient community. This action makes it clear they don’t care what their customers think or need.”

Bristol currently markets four HIV drugs, including: Zerit, a 15-year-old drug with plummeting sales due to side effects; Sustiva, a very popular drug the company acquired after it was already successful development costs recovered; Atripla, a top-selling drug that combines Sustiva in a single pill with a two drug combo made by Gilead; and Reyataz, a popular drug sold to patients at all stages of HIV and the only good-selling drug for HIV developed by Bristol alone.

“Considering how little this company has spent developing its portfolio of HIV drugs, especially in recent years, and how well their products are selling, it’s unconscionable for BMS to do this, they’ve got a lot of nerve pushing the limits with these annual price increases,” Dee adds.

The FPC goes on to say its “very concerned” that Bristol’s actions will prompt other drugmakers to follow suit. “The last thing we need right now is a round of excessive price increases for these drugs, which are already extremely expensive and burdening the health care system,” says Paul Dalton of the FPC and Project Inform, another activist group.

“Even though the increase to government payers is limited to the increases in the Consumer Price Index, these increases affect the co-pays that patients must pay out of pocket. The price hikes also put pressure on other companies to levy similar increases, triggering round after round of price escalation.”

The FPC adds that nearly every other drugmakers takes part in pricing discussions with the group, which acts on behalf of the interests of hundreds of community groups. “We meet with other companies before any new drug is priced and we talk with them prior to any significant price increases,” says Delaney.

“We haven’t heard a word out of Bristol in years, though we’ve been doing this work for more than a decade. The company continues to show the kind of arrogance and disregard for the public that lead to the extraordinary fines it has had to pay. We’ve already seen the price increases spread as Gilead, BMS’s partner in the combination drug Atripla which they both sell, has already raised its price to match Bristol’s.”

The FPC is urging Bristol to roll back its 2008 price increases completely, or at the very least to no more than what is warranted by the Consumer Price Index. Additionally, the group “strongly recommends” the drugmaker renew communications with the FPC, the AIDS Treatment Activist Coalition, individual community organizations and all relevant patient groups nationally and internationally.

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