Merck Lowers Price of Isentress Drug for State AIDS Programs

Merck & Co. (MRK) reduced the price of AIDS drug Isentress for U.S. state programs that provide antiviral medicines to lower-income people who have limited or no insurance.

The price cut will happen on Jan. 1 and be effective through the end of 2013, the Whitehouse Station, New Jersey drugmaker said in a statement today. The company isn’t releasing the amount of the reduction, Pamela Eisele, a Merck spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview.

Merck is the sixth drug company to provide additional discounts for state AIDS programs in recent months, said Murray Penner, deputy executive director for the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, a nonprofit group in Washington. While the state AIDS drug assistance programs serve 200,000 people, as of Dec. 15 there were 4,333 people in 12 states on waiting lists who qualify yet haven’t received assistance because of budget limitations, he said.

“With the economy the way it is there are many more people without jobs and many more people who are qualifying for the programs,” Penner said in a telephone interview. “The need has ballooned.”

The other drugmakers offering enhanced discounts are Johnson & Johnson (JNJ); Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY); Gilead Sciences Inc.; Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH; and ViiV Healthcare, a venture between Pfizer Inc. (PFE) and GlaxoSmithkline Plc, Penner said.

Also today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Isentress for use in children ages 2 to 18. The medicine has been approved for use in adults since October 2007.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Langreth in New York at rlangreth@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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