Responding to today's news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Antiviral Advisory Committee has approved Pfizer Inc.'s AIDS therapy, Selzentry (maraviroc), for use in therapy-naïve patients, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) strongly criticized Pfizer for its current pricing of the drug at an Average Wholesale Price (AWP) of $13,767 per-patient per-year-which, if this price remains when use is expanded, would make it the most expensive first-line AIDS drug on the market.

Selzentry was originally approved by the FDA in August 2007 as a salvage drug-utilized in patients who do not respond favorably, or have developed resistance, to other AIDS drugs-and priced at $12,528 per-patient per-year. In just two years, the price for Selzentry-which must be taken with at least two other AIDS drugs-has increased by nearly 10%. Pfizer reported $46 million in sales for Selzentry in 2008, according to the Associated Press.

"In this time of growing national concern over ballooning healthcare costs, it is simply criminal for Pfizer to continue to price Selzentry at the salvage therapy rate, especially now that the market for the drug will be vastly expanded by the FDA's likely upcoming approval of the drug for first-line use," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "Government programs such as AIDS Drug Assistance Programs and Medicaid are likely to be the largest purchaser of Selzentry. Where exactly does the burden of Pfizer's price-gouging fall? On the taxpayers. And for what reason? So that the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, Pfizer, can make just a little more profit-while bankrupting government programs already hurting for funds as they work to ensure that Americans living with HIV/AIDS receive the lifesaving treatment they need."

"While any new HIV/AIDS drug on the market is welcome, we urge Pfizer to use restraint and to lower the price of Selzentry immediately upon FDA approval for this expanded use," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

An estimated 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV/AIDS. As a result of antiretroviral treatment, many more people are living longer with HIV/AIDS, and a greater burden has been put on the health care system, including several of the federally funded, state-run AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP) nationwide. State ADAPs are funded by the federal Ryan White CARE Act and are the primary source of HIV/AIDS medications for uninsured and underinsured Americans. Funding for AIDS care has been largely flat-funded or saw only minor funding in recent years-increases which are not proportional to the need, nor able to support inflated pharmaceutical prices.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation