Officials with California's AIDS Drug Assistance Program announced that the program will include the fusion inhibitor Fuzeon, a novel drug that carries a price tag of roughly $20,000 per year. Fuzeon, developed by Roche and Trimeris, is the first drug in the fusion inhibitor class of medications. It works by preventing HIV from attaching to and infecting immune system cells. "In spite of severe fiscal challenges facing California's ADAP, we felt it was critical to provide access to Fuzeon to our ADAP clients, especially to those who have become resistant to existing HIV medications," said Michael Montgomery, chief of the state health services department's Office of AIDS, in a press release. Fuzeon is now on the formularies of all state Medicaid programs, through Veterans Affairs, and 28 state ADAPs.
In related news, Roche and Trimeris officials report that worldwide sales of Fuzeon have been lower than expected, The [Raleigh, N.C.] News and Observer reports. Industry analysts say the drug has run into resistance from doctors and patients because of its high cost and the fact that it must be injected rather than taken as a pill. Roche and Trimeris originally estimated that about 27% of HIV patients would be eligible candidates for the fusion inhibitor, but industry analysts say that figure is closer to 10%. Because of the lack of demand for the drug, the pharmaceutical companies say Fuzeon won't turn a profit for up to two years.