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Company Drops Price Of AIDS Drug

December 15, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ The company that makes AZT, the only federally approved anti-AIDS drug, says increased production has allowed it to cut its price by 20 percent, effective today.

Burroughs Wellcome Co. of Research Triangle Park, N.C., announced Monday that it will sell the drug, marketed as Retrovir, to wholesalers for $150.24 for 100 capsules of 100 milligrams each.

The previous price, $187.80, was established in February, just before the drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This summer, state consumer advocates in New York reported incidents of price gouging by some pharmacies and asked the company for data explaining why the drug’s price was so high.

Richard Kessel, executive director of the New York state Consumer Protection Board, said the price drop means an average AIDS patient will spend about $600 a month on the drug, down from between $850 and $900.

Kessel had joined some New York lawmakers in seeking a price decrease.

State Assemblyman Jerrold Nadler, chairman of a legislative consumer affairs committee, said the announcement was ″terrific news, and, I believe, a direct result of the pressure we have continuously put on Burroughs Wellcome.

″The new price of AZT is still very high,″ he said. ″This price reduction is only the first step.″

The company said Retrovir is used by 19,000 patients in 37 countries, including 3,000 who are taking part in about 40 clinical trials.

Nadler and Kessel said they were scheduled to meet Wednesday in New York with Thomas Kennedy, a Burroughs Wellcome vice president, to discuss how the company arrived at its original price.

″Mr. Kennedy will share some information that would enable them to understand the high price of Retrovir,″ said Kathy Bartlett, a company spokeswoman. ″But I’m sure there is some proprietary information that cannot be shared.″

Kessel said his staff would begin monitoring pharmacies across the state to see if they are reducing their prices accordingly.

There is no law limiting how much pharmacies can mark up the price, said Marty Algaze, a spokesman for Nadler.

Burroughs Wellcome said in a statement tht it has made great strides in its ability to produce larger quantities of AZT at less cost and has expanded its plant capacity at two manufacturing facilities in Greenville, N.C. and Dartford, England.

AZT is believed to work by stopping the AIDS virus from multiplying inside a cell.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome attacks the body’s immune system, leaving victims susceptible to infections and cancer.

It is spread most often through sexual contact, needles or syringes shared by drug abusers, infected blood or blood products, and from pregnant women to their offspring.

As of Dec. 7, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta had received reports of 48,139 Americans with AIDS, 27,235 of whom had died.

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