California officials enact tighter controls on Serostim

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com April 08 2003 11:00 PM ET

Officials with California's Medicaid program on Thursday enacted tighter controls on the AIDS wasting medication Serostim in an effort to combat black-market sales of the drug, the Los Angeles Times reports. Beginning June 1, Medi-Cal will limit prescriptions of the drug to a supply of four weeks and will require preapproval by the state for new prescriptions. Currently Medi-Cal members can receive up to three months' worth of the medication and do not require state approval. Officials say the new rules will save the state $7.5 million a year. The new restrictions were enacted to combat Serostim counterfeiting and fraud, including the sale of the muscle-building drug on the black market to bodybuilders. Black market sales are estimated to have cost California tens of millions of dollars over the past four years. A 12-week course of the drug costs about $21,000. A one-month supply of Serostim can sell on the street for several thousand dollars.

David Pieribone, associate director for education at AIDS Project Los Angeles, urged Medi-Cal officials to monitor whether the new restrictions prevent deserving patients from receiving the drug. "If it's saving money, great," he said. "But maybe they're saving money at the expense of patient lives or disease progression. That is important too."