The AIDS Healthcare Foundation praised the efforts of CalSTRS and CalPERS in urging drugmaker Merck and Co. to meet with foundation representatives to discuss concerns over the cost of Merck's HIV/AIDS drug Isentress and its access to the uninsured.
“AHF would like to commend both CalSTRS and CalPERS for expressing concern over the price of Merck's HIV/AIDS drug Isentress and for encouraging corporate social responsibility from the companies in which they are invested,” Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation president, said in a foundation news release. “There is simply no justification for Merck to price Isentress three times higher than other first-line AIDS drugs. The price of this drug is putting an unbearable strain on taxpayer-funded state AIDS drug assistance programs in California and all over the country, ultimately limiting access to lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment to those most in need.”
The $199.5 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, holds about 9.1 million shares of Merck stock, valued at $341 million; the $131.1 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento, holds about 3.5 million shares, valued at $131 million, according to the news release.
CalSTRS spokesman Ricardo Duran confirmed the letter but declined further comment. Merck spokesman David Caouette and CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco were unavailable at press time.