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NY Survey Reveals Little Price Gouging for AIDS Drug

August 21, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ Though most pharmacies modestly mark up the price of AZT, the experimental AIDS drug, the state Consumer Protection Board says it will conduct public hearings to find out if any are engaged in price gouging.

The board reported Thursday that a survey of 176 pharmacies showed that a vast majority of them charged between $700 and $900 for a month’s supply.

The board said it was given prices over the telephone that ranged from $200 to $3,384 for a month’s supply of 360 capsules.

However, Richard Kessel, the board’s executive director, said that the sole pharmacist who gave the $200 quote may have been referring to a week’s supply. Board officials said the actual price range for 360 capsules would be from about $700 to $1,500.

AZT is the only drug approved for treating AIDS.

A random national survey by The Associated Press also found that most prices fell into the $700 to $900 range, or from about $190 to $250 for a bottle of 100 capsules.

Kessel said public hearings next month would also be aimed at determining if wholesale prices are appropriate.

″To me, it sounds like a lot of money,″ Kessel said.

Burroughs Wellcome Co. of North Carolina, the only company that makes AZT, charges $188 per 100 capsules to wholesalers, according to spokesman Thack Brown.

A survey by the American Pharmaceutical Association showed that pharmacies pay wholesalers about $220 for the drug, according to a spokesman for the organization, Ron Williams. A majority of the pharmacies surveyed charged between $209 and $245 to their customers, he said.

″I think the charges that pharmacies are exploiting AIDS patients are just not true,″ said Williams. ″It’s unfortunate that the drug is so expensive, but I think pharmacists are doing their best to deal with that.″

Lori Berhman, a spokeswoman for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in Manhattan, said the organization had not received any complaints from AIDS patients of price-gouging for AZT.

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