Time Running Out for Mississippi’s HIV Patients

Medicaid beneficiaries living with HIV/AIDS in Mississippi are about to be denied access to medications they need to stay alive.

A law that takes effect tomorrow, July 1, limits Mississippi Medicaid beneficiaries to two brand-name drugs. But controlling HIV infection requires three drugs, and all of them are brand name.

Gov. Haley Barbour has not responded to a letter, written two weeks ago by HIVMA Board of Directors Chair Paul Volberding, MD, imploring him to change the policy.

“The Mississippi Medicaid program’s two brand-name prescription drug limit leaves Mississippi’s poorest and sickest residents with no options other than substandard HIV care,” Dr. Volberding wrote. “Substandard care for people with AIDS has deadly consequences,” he added. The virus mutates and becomes resistant to treatment. Patients who were living normal, productive lives get sicker and die.

“This is a short-sighted cost-cutting measure that will cost Mississippi more in the long run,” said Deborah Konkle-Parker, PhD, FNP, a nurse practitioner at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and a member of the HIVMA Board of Directors. “If you deny people medication to control HIV infection, they progress to full-blown AIDS and have to be hospitalized. That’s much more expensive than just paying for the medicines that would keep them out of the hospital in the first place,” she said.

Furthermore, the measure is a threat to public health. People who develop drug-resistant HIV infections can transmit resistant virus to others, making future cases harder and more expensive to treat.

“Forcing Medicaid beneficiaries to accept treatment that compromises their health, and public health, is medical malpractice,” Dr. Volberding said. “We urge Gov. Barbour to make an exception to the two brand-name drug policy for people whose lives depend on it.”


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