STATE — Nearly 1,000 New Jersey residents with HIV/AIDS will be immediately enrolled in a new drug benefit program that will provide free AIDS medications to individuals between 300 and 500 percent of the federal poverty level, officials announced Thursday.
The new program is specifically designed for approximately 960 people enrolled in the existing Aids Drug Distribution Program (ADDP) who will no longer be eligible as of Sunday, Aug. 1. The eligibility change was necessitated by state budget cuts.
Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh explained that the state learned this month that it will receive approximately $5 million in additional rebates recently negotiated from pharmaceutical companies and that—along with newly available federal AIDS grant funding–will enable the department to automatically transfer those no longer eligible for the ADDP program into the new program called the Temporary AIDS Supplemental Rebate and Federal Assistance Program.
The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors recently convened a crisis task force which successfully negotiated additional rebates from pharmaceutical companies in response to cost containment efforts that many states were forced to make. In addition, New Jersey expects to receive a share of a new federal ADDP grant program announced earlier this month by U.S. Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“The department faced extremely difficult budget choices and worked continuously to explore every possible option to reverse this reduction and to maintain access. As a physician, I know how important these life-saving medications are to individuals with HIV and AIDS,” said Alaigh. “New pharmaceutical rebates and federal funds made available after July 1 enabled us to create this new benefit program to ensure that individuals continue to receive these critical medications.”
Alaigh said the transfer from ADDP to the new program “will be virtually seamless.”
“We are very pleased that the pharmaceutical industry could partner with the state of New Jersey to provide critical medications to this vulnerable population,’’ said Steve Issenman, senior vice president of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey. “Private/public partnerships are essential during challenging budgetary times to ensure residents have access to services they need.”
These two drug benefit programs will provide life-sustaining and life-prolonging medications to 7,700 low-income individuals with no other source of payment for these drugs. The program covers 960 individuals who will receive a wide range of FDA-approved medications for treating individuals with HIV and AIDS. The existing ADDP program will continue to serve 6,740 clients.
A letter has been mailed to affected participants to explain that they will be able to use the same eligibility number that they are currently using when they fill prescriptions.
Senator Joseph Vitale, vice chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, expressed concerns about whether the new program would cover the same medications as ADDP and if it would be open for new people to enroll.
The Middlesex County Democrat criticized Gov. Christie for removing New Jersey residents from the program and had sent a letter asking him to request a restoration of the drug benefits.
“The fact of the matter is that the Governor knew about all these funding sources before he sent 957 letters out kicking people off a program they need in order to stay alive,” Vitale said. “I am happy to talk to him about wasting paper, but let’s start with the 957 letters he now has to send telling these folks they’re back on.”
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