In its continuing battle to publicize the astonishingly high price of Isentress, AIDS Healthcare Foundation has taken the largely-symbolic move of banning all US Merck salespeople from visiting its free-treatment clinics. Thus:
. . . .The action came in response to AHF’s concerns over Merck’s steep and unwarranted pricing for its key AIDS drug Isentress—at nearly $13,000 per patient yearly, believed to be the most expensive first line AIDS therapy on the US market today. Isentress was originally approved in October 2007 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a salvage therapy for treatment experienced patients who are resistant to other AIDS drugs. When it first came to market, Merck set the average wholesale price (AWP) of Isentress at $12,150 per patient yearly. Merck has since raised the AWP of Isentress to $12,868—5%—since its introduction to market. . . .
Of course, for those who can afford this price, Isentress has become part of a very promising first-line AIDS treatment approach. This is exactly the sort of business ethics question that troubles me in pharma: now that Isentress is FDA approved as a "first line" rather than just a "salvage" therapy (thus greatly increasing volumes of sales), shouldn't New Merck lower selling prices, given that people are literally dying without the drug -- and most patients without Cadillac insurance plans cannot afford the current co-pays? I tend to think so.
[Hat Tip to Ed, at Pharmalot.]