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High Price of HIV Drug Prompts S.F. Ballot Measure

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The largest global AIDS organization wants San Francisco city officials to pressure an HIV drug maker to significantly lower the price of its prescription drugs.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation–or AHF–announced Wednesday that it plans to file a November 2013 ballot initiative that calls on the municipal government to work directly with Gilead Sciences.

Just this week, the Food and Drug Administration approved Gilead’s new four-in-one AIDS pill called Stribild. AHF says the Bay Area pharmaceutical company immediately priced the medication at roughly $29,000 a year per patient.

AHF President Michael Weinstein said during a telephone news conference that the price is much higher than the average income of HIV patients. That’s considering an estimated 35% of them will ultimately have to take the new ‘quad’ pill.

Weinstein also noted that most people living with the disease don’t even receive treatment because of the rising cost of healthcare. So AHF is now looking to take the issue to the ballot box.

WEINSTEIN: We believe that an initiative in San Francisco will send a powerful message to Congress, state legislatures, and most of all, to the pharmaceutical industry, that they’ve gone too far, this is more than the traffic will bear, and that they’ve unleashed a backlash that is going to start a movement.

AHF says it has written the proposed initiative and will submit it soon to begin the required signature-gathering process by January. The group needs around nine thousand signatures to qualify for a referendum.

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