The US state of California has urged Gilead Sciences to reduce the prices of its HIV/AIDS drugs to assist the AIDS drug assistance programme in providing lifesaving medication to low-income patients.

In a letter addressed to the drug maker, state controller John Chiang said, “I urge you to extend the supplemental agreement you already have in place with the state and provide additional pricing considerations that will translate into a cost savings for the programme.

“Only by a shared responsibility to sustain this programme can we ensure ADAP will serve all the people that rely on it.”

Gilead’s Atripla, accounts for approximately 20% of all ADAP drug expenditures nationally, and costs over $21,900 a patient a year.

Currently, there are 7,261 people waiting AIDS medications in 11 states.

Chiang continues, “California’s ADAP programme [the largest in the nation] has experienced a 257% increase in AIDS drug spending since 2000, more than three times the rate of client growth over this same period. This sharp increase is a result of higher prices for newer AIDS drugs.

“These increases not only place an undue burden on people seeking treatment, but place an unsustainable burden on states.”

Last year, AIDS drug manufacturers agreed to reductions in the price of their medications to ADAPs. However, since then, the number of people waiting to access medicines has soared.