Gilead chooses profits over prevention

Gilead chooses profits over prevention
Change to HIV medicine program means less resources for communities in need

April 9, 2021
Contact: Warren Gill,
(202) 599-8259

WASHINGTON — Gilead, one of the leading manufacturers of drugs for HIV treatment and prevention, announced Thursday significant changes to the Advancing Access Patient Assistance/Medication Assistance Program, its program for providing its drugs to people without insurance.

Those changes were originally announced to take effect in October 2021. After hearing the HIV community’s opposition to these changes, Gilead announced Friday they would delay the implementation until January 2022.

AIDS United’s vice president and chief advocacy officer, Carl Baloney Jr., responded to these changes and delay, saying, “What Gilead proposes goes against the goal of ending the HIV epidemic in the United States. This policy will limit community-based organizations’ ability to expand access to care for vulnerable communities, with a disproportionate impact on people of color.

“These are dramatic changes and whether Gilead gives organizations six months or nine months to prepare, these changes will be harmful to our most vulnerable communities.”

Gilead’s program is currently structured so that pharmacies at AIDS service organizations get reimbursed for providing these drugs. Gilead’s new policy largely cuts out AIDS service organizations, and where it hasn’t cut them out, has significantly reduced their reimbursement.

Baloney continued, “AIDS service organizations are the front line of ending the HIV epidemic in the United States. Gilead’s announcement threatens essential resources these community-based organizations depend on. This impacts the additional work required to end the HIV epidemic, like ensuring access to transportation to receive medical care, nutrition programs and other essential services.

“These changes hurt the organizations doing the most to end the HIV epidemic in the United States. By cutting out AIDS service organizations, Gilead is limiting the contacts people have with the health care system, which will limit other areas of care.”

Bill Keeton, co-chair of AIDS United’s Public Policy Council, added, “Under the program’s current model, HIV and health care safety net providers are able to provide critical medical and support services to uninsured and underinsured people. These services help to link and retain people in care, improve viral suppression, increase PrEP uptake and meet the goals of the federal ending the HIV epidemic initiative.

“Under the announced change, many clinics will lose one of the only tools they have to provide critical PrEP services. These reductions will be felt most heavily in the South and in other states that have not expanded Medicaid where organizations serve high numbers of uninsured and underinsured patients.

“When Gilead announced this plan earlier this year, the HIV community was clear that regardless of the details and implementation mechanisms, the underlying premise of the changes would be catastrophic for community-based organizations and the people these organizations serve.  Unfortunately, these changes will make it harder to achieve the goals of ending the HIV epidemic.”

AIDS United’s board of trustees announced earlier this year the formation of a committee focused on drug reimbursement policies.

Baloney concluded, “AIDS United had been working with Gilead to back off this issue. We will continue to do so. And we will always push for what’s best for people living with and vulnerable to HIV.”