A real crisis facing many people with HIV in the USA in the coming year will be access to the medicines that have revolutionized the treatment of HIV. Access to HIV medicines, based on a shallow and nearsighted analysis, is immediately threatened by insufficient government funds and increasing insurance industry reluctance to pay in full for these expensive drugs. Many of the government subsidized HIV drug programs across the country have run out of funds and now maintain waiting lists of folks wanting to get medicines. One of the major reasons for this, if not the only one that really matters, is the exorbitant cost of these drugs and the unconscionable increases in price over the past several years for many of these medications.
The short-term and very short-sighted fix here would be to scream for more money and you can be sure the many Pharmaceutical Industry Cheerleaders (local AIDS “activist” groups included) are getting out the pom-poms. The larger issue is of course how we as a society have allowed the Pharmaceutical Industry to put us over such a barrel with the only way partially back up is making sure their pockets are full. Whatever happened to the notion of being in the business of developing life enhancing and saving medications as a “socially useful behavior”?
In their insightful New Republic piece, Relman and Angell emphatically gore many of the Pharmaceutical Industry’s most sacred cows. The authors deftly dissect such issues as the exorbitant cost of drugs, the smoke screen of research and development costs and perhaps the most ridiculous illusion of all “Industry Innovation” as something absolutely “vital” in the development of new drug therapies.
One of the most important messages here for the AIDS community in this country is to get off our own self-indulgent pity pots and realize that access to necessary and affordable medications is an issue of importance to all Americans. In attacking this problem we need to be about forging alliances and supporting others in their battles. This sort of coalition politics has never really developed in the AIDS community. Early on I think this was due in large part to the fact that we were truly ostracized and on our own. This is no longer true to the extent it was in 1985, and even if it is, lets get outside our own little world long enough to extend a hand to others.
Unfortunately many of the organizations that have sprung up “advocating” for persons with AIDS are their own self serving entities and have no problem getting in line for the next government hand out and even worse the next Pharmaceutical crumb! We all deserve better and its time we start to address the sad state of health care for everyone in the richest country in the world! The AIDS community could lead the way!