ACT UP protests expected high price of Fuzeon

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com March 15 2003 1:00 AM ET

Members of ACT UP's New York chapter staged a protest outside the manufacturing facility of Roche Pharmaceuticals in Nutley, N.J., on Thursday to protest the expected high price tag for the company's newly approved HIV entry inhibitor Fuzeon. The activists erected a miniature graveyard outside the gates of the facility with tombstones bearing the phrases "Died of AIDS; Killed by Roche's Greed" and "Fuzeon's Price Kills." Although the company has not yet announced the cost of the medication in the United States, the European cost has already been set at more than $20,000 for a year's supply. The activists say the U.S. price could be as high as $25,000.

"Roche has priced Fuzeon at almost three times the price of the most expensive AIDS drug," said ACT UP member Mark Milano in a press release. "This excessive price will force [AIDS Drug Assistance Programs] to cut other life-saving drugs, restrict entry to their programs, or increase already long waiting lists. This will hasten the death of thousands of people with HIV in the U.S."

Officials with state ADAPs, which provide free or low-cost anti-HIV medications to low-income, underinsured, and uninsured HIV-positive people throughout the country, have already said they doubt they will be able to offer Fuzeon to program enrollees because of the expected high cost. Government sources said it's also unlikely participants in Medicaid will have access to the drug.