Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998

Group Protests Price of AIDS Drug

The Associated Press

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) -- For some time, Eric Sawyer has been taking Sustiva as part of DuPont Pharmaceutical's clinical trials of the AIDS drug. As a result, he said, his level of HIV infection is virtually undetectable.

That's the good news.

The bad news is, now that Sustiva has been approved for sale by the federal Food and Drug Administration, many HIV-infected people may be unable to afford it in addition to other drugs they are taking, an AIDS activist group said Thursday.

``Pricing it between $4,000 and $5,000 for this particular drug would make my drug therapy cost about $30,000 a year,'' said Sawyer, 44, who travelled from New York to participate in Act Up Philadelphia's protest outside DuPont Co. headquarters.

The FDA approved Sustiva last week. The drug has to be taken in conjunction with others currently in use.

Demanding that the company slash the drug's price, the group dumped empty pill bottles from a black coffin onto the sidewalk to emphasize its points.

Walking en masse to the headquarters and carrying a black banner that said, ``DuPont Pharma: Greed=Death,'' about 120 protesters chanted, ``We die, they make money.''

DuPont issued only a brief statement, which reiterated the company's belief that Sustiva -- also known as efavirenz -- is ``fair and reasonable.''

``Sustiva is priced in the middle of the range for currently marketed antiretrovirals to treat HIV/AIDS,'' said the statement. ``DuPont Pharmaceuticals had made every effort to assure that the price of Sustiva will not impact patients' access to the drug.''

The company also said it plans to expand its treatment assistance program for poor patients.

But activists said the price has already affected some, claiming state-run AIDS drug programs in California and Pennsylvania have ruled out paying for Sustiva because of the cost.

DuPont said the drug will be available for just under $4,000 a year, but the protesters argued that once it is marked up for sale to people, the actual cost will be more like $5,000.

Few seem to question Sustiva's effectiveness, though.

In a six-month study of 450 patients taking the standard drugs, AZT and 3TC, along with Sustiva, or the more widely used drug, Crixivan, both therapies were found to be equally effective.

Sustiva costs less, but protesters said it still costs more than some other AIDS drugs. It would also reduce the number of pills HIV-infected people have to take each day to control the virus, activists said.

The protesters argued that the company should price Sustiva with other drugs in its class.

``Our friends and our neighbors need these drugs,'' a man who identified himself as John shouted into a bullhorn at the protest. ``As long as the price is this high, it's going to hurt everyone.''

The Associated Press

Thursday, Oct 29, 1998
Activists take over Du Pont offices in NYC

We had a successful action here in NYC - 5 of us invaded the Du Pont offices here and caused general choas for 2 hours ("...but you don't understand - this is a textile company, we don't make drugs!")

We dopped the DuPont Pharma: "Greed = Death" banner from windows facing Broadway, and put up posters demanding a Sustiva price drop in the windows. A half-dozen police arrived, along with building security and maintenance, and 40 office workers were dismissed. Our demand was that Nick Teti agree to the meeting with ADAP directors that he had recently refursed, and they got him on the phone, and he did.

We managed to fulfill all our goals without an arrest, and they gave us our banner back!!


see also:

Consensus Statement on Drug Pricing


Back to ACTIONS index