Nearly 800 poor Americans are waiting for AIDS medications from government-funded programs that serve as the last resort for many patients who cannot afford costly treatments, according to an annual survey released on Thursday.
Several U.S. states also have been forced to take cost-savings steps such as reducing the number of medicines covered by their AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs), the report said.
In many cases ADAPs are the last option for obtaining medicines for poor people who are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and have limited or no insurance.
“The need for HIV-related medications continues to outstrip their availability,” said the report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health research organization, and the National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors.
As of February 2006, nine states reported waiting lists with a total of 791 people. The states were Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Alabama, the report said.
ADAPs serve more than 134,000 patients, about one quarter of all people in the US receiving treatment for HIV infection. Funding comes from states and the federal government.
The authors said Congress should consider ways to reduce waiting lists as lawmakers work to reauthorize the law that created ADAPs and other AIDS assistance programs.
Without changes, “ADAPs will continue to have to make difficult trade-off decisions between serving more people with less services or serving less people with more services,” the report said.
Some patients may be able to get drugs from charities while they are on ADAP waiting lists.
In June 2005, ADAPs spent about $102.6 million to provide medications to 96,404 patients, the report said. Drug costs per person were $1,064 during that month.
Most of the money went to pay for antiretroviral drugs that can extend the lives of HIV patients by years.
Benefits vary greatly between states and the number of drugs they cover. Thirty-five states covered all antiretroviral drugs for HIV as of September 2005.
A task force formed in 2002, to address funding shortfalls, negotiated lower prices with drug makers that saved ADAPs about $90 million in 2004 and $145 million in 2005, the report said.
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD