Antiretroviral Guidelines

US DHHS Guidelines with Australian commentary


Cost Considerations and Antiretroviral Therapy


Last Updated: November 26, 2018; Last Reviewed: October 25, 2018

AU comment: Cost Considerations and ART

Monthly Average Prices of Commonly Used Antiretroviral Drugs


Prescription drug pricing in the United States involves complex systems of negotiations, rebates, discounts, and reimbursement rates. Much of the information used to determine drug prices is confidential, and prices can vary depending on the purchaser, the type of public or private insurance coverage in use, and the number of generic competitors. In addition, price increases that exceed rates of inflation can trigger additional rebates for Medicaid and 340B Drug Discount Program entities. Table 17 includes three benchmark prices, rounded to the nearest dollar, for commonly used antiretroviral (ARV) drugsa as a general reference for health care providers when considering the cost of HIV treatment. Health care providers should contact patients’ pharmacies or payors regarding actual prices, comparative cost savings, and related formulary restrictions.

Wholesale acquisition cost (WAC) is the list price published by manufacturers for prescription drugs or biologics sold to wholesalers. The WAC price approximates what retail pharmacies pay wholesalers for single-source (e.g., brand-name) drugs. There is a range of WAC prices for generic ARVs, as these are multiple-source products with variable list prices. With increasing competition, actual transactional prices of generic drugs among wholesalers and pharmacies decrease substantially. Average wholesale price (AWP) has historically been used as the basis for setting public (e.g., Medicaid) and private (e.g., commercial insurer) reimbursement rates for pharmacies. Neither WAC nor AWP include variable price concessions along supply and payment chains, including discounts and rebates to wholesalers, pharmacies, federal purchasers (e.g., the Veterans’ Administration), pharmacy benefit managers, commercial insurers, Medicaid, 340B pharmacies, and AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. The availability of these discounts and rebates depends on product demand, market competition, and WAC price increases set by manufacturers.

Maximum prices are assigned to generic products with three or more therapeutically and pharmaceutically equivalent products, as determined by the Food and Drug Administration. This federally established price is the federal upper limit (FUL). Federal Medicaid will reimburse state Medicaid programs up to this limit for multiple-source drugs (plus the dispensing fee); commercial insurers set their own reimbursement upper limits with pharmacies. Whereas WACs and AWPs are generally set annually, FULs are adjusted monthly, particularly for multiple-source drugs with fluctuating pharmacy acquisition costs. In the table below, the FUL for a drug is described as “pending” if a generic drug currently lacks the competition required to trigger a FUL.