PROTEASE INHIBITORS: MAY BE REDUCING AIDS TREATMENT COSTS
Less than a year after the introduction of proteaseThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
inhibitors, medical centers around the country are seeing the
first indications that the AIDS-fighting drugs are leading to a
decline in "the use of expensive inpatient health services by
AIDS patients." WALL STREET JOURNAL reports that "preliminary
and largely anecdotal" data from medical centers that treat "a
large number of HIV-infected people" suggests that the drugs may
"generate long-term health savings that could offset their cost."
According to a federal study, AIDS patient account for
approximately $24,000 per year in hospital costs; protease
inhibitors cost about $16,000 a year per patient.
TREND FOR THE FUTURE: Physicians and hospital officials in
California and New York said "they are seeing the most
significant decline in acute-care services since the epidemic
exploded over 12 years ago." Peter Ruane, a physician with a Los
Angeles-based AIDS practice, said, "As a group, my patients
aren't anywhere near as sick -- or sick as often -- as they
were." He added, "We may be in the midst of the most radical
medical change in our field since the first arrival of drugs for
(tuberculosis) in the 1950s." Michael Weinstein, president of
AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles, said that the "demand
for hospice beds is radically diminishing." Health officials
said that private organizations and the government may have to
shift some of the AIDS monies spent on medical care to funding
for drug therapy, including "outpatient services to provide the
drugs and the close monitoring that the drugs' use requires."
NEW SPECIALTY: Doctors working with the protease inhibitors
said that "figuring out precisely which combinations of the nine
drugs available work best for each patient has required an
increase in time and expertise." Dr. Michael Saag, an AIDS
researcher at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, said that
"the best care can only come from doctors who really understand
the nuances of the different drugs" (Waldholz, 10/10).