AIDS Healthcare Foundation
|Subsidiaries||AHF Pharmacy, Out of the Closet Thrift Stores, Liver Institute|
|Slogan||Cutting Edge Medicine and Advocacy Regardless of Ability to Pay|
In 1987, activists Chris Brownlie, Michael Weinstein, Sharon Raphael, PhD, Mina Meyer, MA, and other advocates were among the earliest champions of the AIDS hospice movement as co-founders of the Los Angeles AIDS Hospice Committee, the catalyst organization which gave rise to the AIDS Hospice Foundation and, ultimately, to today’s AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
As members of the inaugural AIDS Hospice Committee, Brownlie, Weinstein, Myer, Raphael, Paul Coleman and others were involved with the planning and negotiations for the opening of Chris Brownlie Hospice on the grounds of the Barlow Respiratory Hospital. In those early years, following an emotional plea for hospice care to the Los Angeles County Commission on AIDS and a protest and picketing of then-Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s home, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors eventually committed $2 million to AIDS care. The group began converting a facility in Elysian Park that had been Barlow’s old nursing quarters into Chris Brownlie Hospice—the County’s first AIDS hospice—which was named in Brownlie’s honor when it first opened December 26, 1988. Meyer, who also served as Treasurer of the AIDS Hospice Committee, was honored in 1987 by the Los Angeles AIDS Hospice Committee with its ‘Heart of Gold Award’ for her early work in the effort to formulate AIDS hospice care in Los Angeles.
The 25-bed hospice—the first of three operated by AHF, including the Carl Bean House and Linn House, which opened in 1992 and 1995, respectively—provided 24-hour medical and palliative care to people living through the final stages of AIDS. Brownlie passed away at the age of 39, on November 26, 1989, less than a year after the hospice named in his honor first opened, survived by his father, sister, brothers, his longtime partner, Phil Wilson and countless friends and fellow AIDS activists. In addition to Brownlie, over 1,000 people had been given dignified, specialized, compassionate final care at the Chris Brownlie Hospice by the time it ended hospice operations in September 1996. The building that housed the Brownlie Hospice went through its own rebirths, housing various departments of AHF, including the headquarters for AHF’s Public Health Division, before the organization officially turned the property back over to the City of Los Angeles with a sunset memorial ceremony on Saturday, January 26, 2013.
With the advent of lifesaving antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment in 1995-1996, an HIV-positive diagnosis signified a change in one’s life, not the end of it. As medical opportunities for managing HIV became more available, AHF changed its mission from providing compassionate care to people dying from HIV/AIDS to helping them live well with the disease through advanced medical care. This philosophical shift was marked with the change of the Foundation’s name to AIDS Healthcare Foundation in July 1990. The new focus on healthcare led to the founding of AHF Healthcare Centers, Wellness Centers, and the Positive Healthcare Network, the nation’s first capitated managed care program for people living with HIV.
Today AHF is the largest AIDS service organization in the world, currently providing medical care and services to more than 465,000 individuals in 36 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific region and Eastern Europe.
AHF produced the documentary film Keep The Promise: The Global Fight Against AIDS, depicting the AHF sponsored protest of government anti-HIV funding levels and anti-HIV drug prices at the XIX International AIDS Conference, 2012. The film premiered March 29, 2013 at the Vail Film Festival.
Advocacy for reducing drug prices
At a Washington, DC press conference in February 2002, AHF President Michael Weinstein addressed exorbitant drug prices by GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical company. AHF filed suit against GSK in July in a Los Angeles federal court to protest antitrust and patent violations regarding GSK's antiviral drugs AZT, 3TC and Ziagen. AHF amended its lawsuit against GSK in November 2002 to include a request that the drug company's patents be invalidated so U.S. residents can take advantage of cheaper, generic versions. In February 2003, GSK cuts the cost of Trizivir and Combivir in developing countries by as much as 90 percent.
In February 2004, AHF filed an antitrust and restraint of trade lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant Abbott Laboratories concerning its drug prices and policies on its key AIDS drug, Norvir (ritonavir) and its subsequent derivative drug, Kaletra. In December 2003, Abbott announced an unprecedented 400% price hike for Norvir, while leaving the price of Kaletra—which has Norvir as a significant component—unchanged.
In August 2005, AHF criticized drug manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim for pricing its latest AIDS drug Aptivus (tipranavir), at $13,000 a year, the highest price for a protease inhibitor of its time.
In November 2006, AHF asked Indian anti-HIV drug manufacturer Cipla to reduce the price of its combination drug Viraday from its launch price of about Rs 62,000 per year. Cipla CEO Y. K. Hamied cited taxes and custom duties on raw materials as reasons for the high price, but agreed to a price cut.
In January 2007, AHF filed suit in Los Angeles over Pfizer's direct to consumer marketing of Viagra, accusing Pfizer of promoting off-label, recreational use of Viagra, and suggesting a link between Viagra, methamphetamine, and unsafe sex. Pfizer denied AHF's claims, and mentioned that AHF had recently asked Pfizer to fund a meth educational program.
In August 2007, AHF began purchasing full-page ads in Indian newspapers accusing Cipla of overpricing. According to AHF, a year's worth of Viraday cost Rs 54,000 when sold in India, but only Rs 21,000 when exported to Africa. Some NGOs declined to join AHF in criticizing Cipla's drug prices, citing a potential conflict of interest: Cipla's opposition to the patent application for Viread, a component of Viraday, filed by AHF contributor Gilead Sciences. Gilead denied involvement in AHF's complaint, and an AHF regional chief stated that AHF also opposed Gilead's patent application for Viread. After months of AHF campaigning against Cipla, the company is brought under investigation by the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission (MRTPC) and moves to reduce the price of Viraday and Efavir in India by 15%.
In March 2008, AHF petitioned drug manufacturers including Abbot, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead, GSK, Merck, Pfizer, Roche and Tibotec to freeze the price of their HIV drugs in the U.S, stating that as a result of regular drug price increases “HIV/AIDS assistance programs will essentially be flat funded and unable to provide access to additional people in need of lifesaving drugs.” In June, the organization applauded decisions by Boehringer Ingelheim and Gilead Sciences to freeze prices on antiretroviral medications purchased by government agencies.
In September 2013, AHF filed a lawsuit in California against GSK alleging that the company “…failed to fully satisfy its obligations with respect to discounts for drugs it sold to AIDS Healthcare Foundation over a period of many years,” under the 340B Drug Pricing Program, a federal drug discount program designed to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible for community healthcare providers such as AHF.
California Drug Price Relief Act
Drug pricing advocates affiliated with AHF announced in August 2015 that they collected enough signatures of registered California voters—378,931 signatures as of August 16—to qualify the California Drug Price Relief Act, a statewide 2016 ballot initiative that would revise California law to require state programs to pay no more for prescription medications than the prices negotiated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (notwithstanding any other provision of law and insofar as permissible under federal law).
Ohio Drug Price Relief Act
On August 3, 2015, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine approved petition language for a drug pricing 2016 statewide ballot initiative to enact Section 194.01 of the Ohio Revised Code to seek United States Department of Veterans Affairs prescription drug pricing for state programs. On August 13, the Ohio Ballot Board approved the proposed statute as a single issue. As a result, that measure, backed by AHF and Ohioans for Fair Drug Prices, was cleared for signature gathering to begin collecting the 91,677 signatures of registered Ohio voters required to put the issue before the Ohio General Assembly.
According to the Ohio petition language, “The Ohio Drug Price Relief Act would to require that notwithstanding any other provision of law and in so far as permissible under federal law, the State of Ohio shall not enter into any agreement for the purchase of prescription drugs or agree to pay, directly or indirectly, for prescription drugs, including where the state is the ultimate payer, unless the net cost is the same or less than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs.”
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