REPORTED BY ENID VÁZQUEZ
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- Atripla’s co-pay program now saves more money
- Rapid hepatitis C test now available
- Testosterone: A Man’s Guide
- New Selzentry dose for renal disease patients
- CDC launches new screening initiative
- Successful safe sex intervention for African American couples
- R.I.P., vicriviroc
- Special issue of Nature focuses on HIV
The co-pay program for Atripla now eliminates the requirement that people first pay $50 out-of-pocket before financial assistance begins. The same is true for the drugs that make up Atripla (Sustiva and Truvada), as well as the medications that make up Truvada (Emtriva and Viread).
According to a spokesperson for Gilead Sciences, “Going forward, the Atripla Co-Pay Assistance Program will pay up to $200 per month (or $2,400 per year) toward out-of-pocket expenses for Atripla beginning with the first dollar of co-payment required by a patient’s insurance plan. Bristol-Myers Squibb and Gilead Sciences, LLC [the makers of Atripla], are working as quickly as possible to implement this change [at the time of this announcement in June].”
The program is not available to patients in Massachusetts or to those whose prescriptions are eligible to be reimbursed, in whole or part, by Medicare, Medicaid, any other federal- or state-funded health care benefit program, or by private plans or other health or pharmacy benefit programs which reimburse patients for the entire cost of their prescription drugs.
To enroll, people taking Atripla must get a co-pay assistance card from their health care provider, or call the toll-free number 1-866-784-3431. The card must be activated before first use by calling this number.
People who do not have insurance, are underinsured, or who otherwise need assistance may call the Atripla Patient Assistance Program (PAP) toll-free at 1-866-290-4767.
For updates on all HIV drug co-pay assistance programs, see the 14th Annual HIV Drug Guide article “Pick a Card, Pick a Plan,” or go to www.positivelyaware.com and search the e-updates for patient assistance programs. You can also get the latest information by searching the website of the drugs you are taking, such as www.atripla.com.
On June 25, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the approval of “the first rapid blood test in the U.S. for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in whole blood specimens (from venipuncture), for individuals 15 years and older. The OraQuick HCV Rapid Antibody Test, a test strip for the detection of antibodies to the hepatitis C virus, is indicated for testing individuals who are at risk for infection with HCV, and people with signs or symptoms of hepatitis. No additional instrumentation is required for diagnosis, and results are available in about 20 minutes. Results are presumptive, meaning that a positive test result should be followed up by a confirmatory test using traditional HCV testing methods to make a definitive diagnosis.”
HCV is transmitted primarily through exposure to infected blood, and intravenous drug use is the most common means of transmission in the United States. Hepatitis C can lead to liver inflammation and dysfunction and, over time, to liver disease and liver cancer —SUE SALTMARSH, FROM PA E-UPDATE
HIV health and treatment advocate Nelson Vergel’s new book, Testosterone: A Man’s Guide—Practical Tips for Boosting Physical, Mental and Sexual Vitality, is now available. Vergel, who is living with AIDS, is a highly knowledgeable, long-time advocate of exercise and nutrition for people with HIV. He co-wrote Built to Survive: A Comprehensive Guide to the Medical Use of Anabolic Steroids, Nutrition and Exercise for HIV (+) Men and Women. Both books are available online at Amazon.com, including Kindle editions. Testosterone: A Man’s Guide is also available as an app for iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and Android. See a cover story on Vergel in the May/June 2009 issue of POSITIVELY AWARE. Visit Nelson’s website: www.powerusa.org.
On May 27, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported making changes to the HIV medication Selzentry (maraviroc) drug label. In a new contraindication, Selzentry should not be used in patients with severe renal impairment or end-stage renal disease (ESRD) (CrCl<30 mL/min) who are taking potent CYP3A inhibitors or inducers (check with your doctor or pharmacist). There is also a dose change for people with kidney disease experiencing certain side effects. The drug’s medication guide has been updated to include the statement, “Talk to your health care provider before taking this medicine if you have kidney problems.” Visit www.selzentry.com.
It was announced on June 16 that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention will launch a new phase of its Act Against AIDS campaign, “HIV Screening. Standard Care.” (HSSC) to assist physicians in making HIV testing a standard part of medical care.
The CDC’s 2006 HIV screening recommendations advise that all patients between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV as a routine part of medical care at least once—regardless of perceived risk for the disease—and that individuals at high risk (such as those with multiple or HIV-infected partners) be tested at least once annually. HSSC is designed to help medical providers comply with the recommendations.
HSSC resources and materials will be available to providers, including a quick annotated guide to the recommendations and patient education materials that will help answer patients’ questions about HIV testing. The materials will be available free of charge to providers at www.cdc.gov/HIVStandardCare. —SUE SALTMARSH, FROM PA E-UPDATE
According to a press release from the UCLA AIDS Institute, “A new study published online [July 12] in the Archives of Internal Medicine has found that heterosexual African American couples in which only one partner is HIV-positive practiced safer sexual behaviors after participating in a culturally specific intervention program designed to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.”
The program was based on Eban, an African concept which symbolizes “safety, security, and love within one’s family and relationship space.” “The study of 535 couples, about half of whom received the Eban intervention while the others received a different intervention, was conducted in four cities with high HIV rates (Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, and Philadelphia) through a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. In addition to promoting safer sex, the study also worked on the couples’ ability to communicate with each other, to stay in healthy relationships, and to respect their communities.”
According to the release, “This study is the first to report a significant reduction in risky behavior among heterosexual African American couples.” Those who went through the program based on Eban reported more frequent and consistent condom use and fewer acts of unprotected sex, changes maintained through 12 months of follow-up.
Merck & Co. announced in July that it will stop its development efforts on an experimental HIV drug called vicriviroc. The drug is an HIV CCR5 inhibitor, of which there is already one on the market (Selzentry, generic name maraviroc). In recent results (see May/June POSITIVELY AWARE), it was noted that the use of newer and more powerful HIV drugs to optimize the background treatment of study participants made it difficult for vicriviroc to show additional benefit.
A special supplement of Nature magazine focusing on HIV/AIDS is available free online. The topics reported in the 13 articles include vaccine research, people who are “elite controllers” of HIV, and the search for a cure. There is also an opinion piece from HIV doctors. Visit www.nature.com.