A study led by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators, appearing in the Jan. 15, 2013, Annals of Internal Medicine found that switching all HIV-infected patients in the U. S. to the three-drug generic strategy would produce lifetime savings of $42,500 per eligible patient. In the first year alone, the nationwide savings would reach nearly $1 billion. However, the quality-adjusted loss of life expectancy could be as much as 4.5 months.
“In 2011 the cost of antiretroviral drugs in the U. S. was around $9 billion, most of which was paid for by government sources. The currently recommended treatment for newly diagnosed patients is a single pill (Atripla) taken daily that combines three brand-name antiretrovirals: tenofovir (Viread), emtricitabine (Emtriva) and efavirenz (Sustiva). A generic form of the antiretroviral drug lamivudine, which has a similar mechanism of action to emtricitabine, became available in January 2012, and a generic version of efavirenz is expected in the relatively near future.”
“Replacing two of the three branded drugs with generics could significantly reduce costs, the authors note, but such a strategy would also have disadvantages. A more complicated treatment regimen, requiring three daily pills instead of one, increases the risk that some patients will miss doses, leading to the loss of antiretroviral effectiveness called treatment failure. Laboratory studies have also found that lamivudine may be slightly less effective and more vulnerable to the development of drug-resistant viral strains than emtricitabine.”
As the Alabama Medicaid Advisory Commission searches for cost savings in Medicaid this change will certainly be welcome by Governor Bentley and Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.
The research was reviewed at the Eureka Alert website the date of publication.