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January 26, 2010

AIDS Healthcare Foundation Bans Merck Reps Over Drug Costs

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is accusing Merck of overcharging for the antiretroviral Isentress (raltegravir) and is banning the company’s representatives from its clinics, Agence France-Presse reports.

“We’ve banned representatives from Merck Pharmaceuticals from calling on our physicians in our clinics, which is a common marketing strategy,” said AHF communications director Ged Kinslea. “We are instituting this ban largely because of the egregious pricing policies for their key AIDS drug, Isentress.”

Kinslea continued: “The drug is a good drug. It has fewer side effects…. But it is the single most expensive first-line antiretroviral treatment for AIDS available in the United States and the developing world.”

According to the article, an annual course of Isentress costs about $12,870 in the United States. In Africa, Kinslea said, Isentress costs “about $1,100 dollars per patient, per year—and that’s about 20 times more than other AIDS drugs in Africa.”

In a statement issued by the company two weeks ago, Merck said the price-gouging accusations were false and that the drug had been priced “responsibly…after consultation with respected leaders in the HIV community.”

AHF is based in Los Angeles and provides HIV/AIDS advocacy and medicine across the globe.

Search: AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Merck, Isentress, raltegravir, Africa


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