Thanks to breakthrough new medicines, we’re making a lot of headway against AIDS in the United States. But AIDS is still a killer disease – it’s the leading cause of death for African American.. Thanks to breakthrough new medicines, we’re making a lot of headway against AIDS in the United States. But AIDS is still a killer disease – it’s the leading cause of death for African American men between the ages of 25 and 44. The good news is that America’s pharmaceutical companies are working on 83 more medicines for HIV/AIDS, including 14 vaccines.
In 1987, just four years after the virus that causes AIDS was identified, a pharmaceutical company introduced the first medicine approved to treat the disease. Since then companies have been working on medicines to fight the virus and to treat the opportunist infections that attack the weakened immune systems of AIDS patients. Since the early 1990s, medicines have helped reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV by two-thirds. And since the mid-1990s, when the first protease inhibitors were launched and combination drug therapy was introduced, the U.S. death rate from AIDS has dropped about 70 percent. Today, there are 74 medicines approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat AIDS and AIDS-related conditions.
Pharmaceutical companies believe their medicines cannot help and heal if they sit on the pharmacy shelf, so companies have initiated a number of programs to help low-income patients, both in the United States and in the developing world. In the U.S. people who don’t have health insurance or don’t qualify for state or federal assistance programs can work with the drug’s manufacturer to get the medicine at reduced or no cost. This year, the patient assistance programs have helped more than five million patients. To find out how to contact the individual company assistance programs, you can request a free directory by calling 800-762-4636, or you can download the directory on the web at www.phrma.org.
In the developing world, companies are also helping countries cope with this epidemic. In the past four years, companies have provided nearly $2 billion in financial assistance and medical products to developing nations. They are also selling AIDS medicines at deeply discounted prices in the poorest countries.
The medicines already invented –and the medicines in the pipeline—provide hope for reducing the terrible toll of AIDS. But the best defense against this disease is prevention. For more information on how to prevent this disease and what to do if you think you might be infected, got to the Centers for Disease Control website and read the frequently asked questions about AIDS and HIV. (www.cdc/hiv/pubs/faqs.htm)
Larry Lucas is Associate Vice President of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America (PhRMA).