Earlier this month, pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences announced that it will donate enough HIV prevention drug Truvada to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to benefit 200,000 people at an increased risk for HIV.
While news of the announcement was met positively, additionally, it came in front of several other negative headlines surrounding the alcohol rehab new england, coupled with cautions from the medical community.
Health experts warn that better access to medications is just one piece in the huge puzzle of stopping HIV transmission in the United States.
All of it underscores so how complex tackling HIV has been doing yesteryear and continues to be in the present.
“We are proud to partner with CDC to dramatically expand access to medication that could help prevent new HIV infections,” Gregg Alton, chief patient officer of Gilead Sciences, said in the company’s statement in early May.
“We believe today’s donation, combined with efforts to address the main reasons for the epidemic, such as for instance racism, violence against women, stigma, homophobia, and transphobia, can enjoy an important role in ending the HIV epidemic in the United States, particularly in areas of the country with the best burden of disease.”
The target is always to expand access of the high-cost drug — central to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment for HIV prevention — to individuals who are low-income, either uninsured or underinsured, and are at an increased risk for contracting HIV.
The offer between the business and the U.S. government will last through the finish of 2025 and could potentially extend to 2030, based on a record from Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar.
The medical community has been proponents of PrEP whilst the highly effective face of treatment to prevent HIV.
The drug regimen actually contains two medications in a single pill, prescribed for daily use by individuals who are HIV-negative and at an increased risk for contracting HIV.
The drug isn’t cheap, with a listing price of up to $2,000 for a 30-day supply. Gilead has touted a co-pay coupon assistance program to help individuals who are commercially insured.
The Trump administration heralded the announcement as a key element of realizing its pledge to eradicate HIV from the United States by 2030.
Within its four-pronged approach going to this goal, the federal government zeroed in on the need to provide PrEP to at-risk populations, based on the CDC Trusted Source.
Just weeks following this initiative was highlighted in the president’s State of the Union address, the CDC revealed that the annual decline in new HIV numbers has stalled, further highlighting the necessity for more aggressive measures.
That said, some medical professionals say we have to attend and see how impactful this will be.
Dr. Hyman Scott, MPH, the clinical research medical director at Bridge HIV and an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), told Healthline that it isn’t exactly clear if this impacts the company’s current voucher program and assistance efforts for those who are low income.
He explained, as with many drug manufacturers, there’s no publicly available data on what many people benefit from Gilead’s existing efforts and it’s unclear if these initiatives is going to be discontinued once this partnership with the CDC adopts effect.
“I think that is still an open question when it comes to what advantage the donation has over the present infrastructure,” Scott said.
“A very important factor is that individuals will have more transparency. We will have a way to see — if it’s run by the CDC and administered by the CDC — who’s utilising the program, who’s accessing it, who’s staying on [the drug regimen],” he said. “Because, right now, we don’t have any data on individuals currently applying this patient assistance program from Gilead.”
Scott stated that as a healthcare provider it’s frustrating to see how the high cost of the drug will make necessary, life-saving treatment out of reach for those who might need it most.
“The expense of Truvada has been a significant barrier for expanding PrEP use within the U.S.,” he added.
“I saw a patient a couple of weeks ago who previously tried to obtain on PrEP, had a $1,600 bill to access it first month [and] found it very discouraging for him. Subsequently, he was identified as having HIV.”
Scott stressed that for PrEP to work on society at large, “barriers need to be removed” and the expense of medications is a “big barrier for those who have no insurance or gaps in insurance or the underinsured who have high co-pays and deductibles.”
Dr. Kristin Englund, an infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic, told Healthline that just offering free medications is insufficient for people.
She said that individuals who receive the procedure still need to go in every 90 days for evaluations, such as meeting a provider, getting lab tests done, and doing an HIV screening to ensure they’re still HIV-negative.
None of this really is free and the expenses of these regular visits alone — even without investing in PrEP — could be cost prohibitive.
“This presents big barriers to getting PrEP to appropriate populations who need it. To at-risk populations, such as adolescents, adults, people of color, and other at-risk groups like men who have sex with men (MSM), bisexuals, transgender people,” she stressed.
“We have to have a much better ability to attain those populations and provide them with continuity of healthcare irrespective of insurance.”
Englund said the brand new donation of drugs from Gilead to 200,000 people will probably “go quite a distance toward helping with at the very least the medication portion” of their care, but beyond that, more needs to be performed to ensure the healthcare system benefits those in need.
Not everyone thinks this corporate donation is praiseworthy.