Officials are working out the details of a temporary solution to the funding shortfall for the program that supplies medications to more than 10,000 low-income HIV/AIDs patients in Florida.
Tom Liberti, who heads the Florida Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS Bureau, says the group is hammering out a plan in which private groups such as Welvista, a charitable organization created by pharmaceutical companies in response to a nationwide funding shortfall for AIDs Drug Assistance Programs, would help keep medicines flowing till the next federal grant arrives.
Florida’s drug assistance program is set to run out of money in early February, but federal funds won’t arrive until April. Keeping the program running in the meantime could cost $14.5 million dollars, according to the health department.
“We’re spending 100 percent of our time on this right now,” Liberti says, and the department is “very close” to a solution. The groups need to agree to the final details of a temporary fix and figure out how to distribute medications at the local level.
“This is a one-time request,” he says. “This would be a gap that should not ever occur again.”
The program’s deficit had been more than $25 million going into this budget year, he says. The deficit has been reduced by measures like reducing spending on “ancillary” medications — drugs like pain medications that don’t directly treat the HIV virus, but address other problems faced by HIV/AIDs patients — and capping the number of patients with access to the program.
In addition to reigning in costs, Liberti says the department is pushing for more funding at both the state and federal levels, which will address the underlying problems that led to the current crisis. As demand for the programs has grown due to the struggling economy, funding has failed to keep pace.