aids.jpgAn organization of HIV/AIDS patient advocates today announced its intent to put a measure on next year’s ballot in San Francisco encouraging the city to negotiate for the lowest possible price for the prescription drugs that it purchases.

The “Stop Runaway Drug Pricing” measure, endorsed by the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, requires the collection of 9,703 valid signatures from San Francisco residents on a petition before it could go on the city’s ballot in November 2013.

Ged Kenslea, spokesman for the foundation, said that governments are the single-largest purchaser of pharmaceutical products and could help stop rising prices that companies are charging for drugs to treat AIDS, cancer and other illnesses.
“There’s been no one that’s said no,” Kenslea said.

City law currently authorizes the city’s Public Health Department to use outside companies to negotiate prices for prescription drugs. The measure would establish as city policy that San Francisco negotiate directly with the drug manufacturers.

Dr. Lisha Wilson, medical director at the foundation’s Bay Area clinics, highlighted one drug in particular, Stribild, produced by the Peninsula-based company Gilead Sciences, Inc.

The annual cost of the drug, a four-in-one AIDS treatment combination, is $28,500, more than most AIDS patients earn in a year, Wilson said.

“For many patients, this is just really unaffordable,” she said, calling Stribild “a blatant, clear example of the unsustainability of this drug pricing.”

Officials at Gilead Sciences were not immediately available for comment this afternoon.
Jesse Brooks, a community activist who has lived with HIV/AIDS for more than 19 years, said he was concerned about being priced out of the market for the medicine to treat his illness.

“That one day you might not be able to afford it is stressful,” Brooks said.

Officials with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation said signature gathering will start either Friday or Saturday. Organizers have until mid-May 2013 to gather the required number of signatures.

The measure is advisory but would require the city’s Board of Supervisors to study the policy and determine what action, if any, would be appropriate to implement it.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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