Georgia lawmaker wants to make best HIV meds more accessible

A bill that would make it easier for HIV-positive Medicaid recipients to receive the most effective medications may soon see a vote by the full Georgia House.

State Rep. Deborah Silcox, a Republican from Sandy Springs who sponsored the legislation, called it the most “fiscally responsible and humane way” to treat HIV.

“This bill will allow physicians to get patients into treatment quickly with the very most effective drug regimen possible,” she said at a Health & Human Services (HHS) Committee meeting on Tuesday.

House Bill 158 would ensure that the formulary used to determine which HIV medications Medicaid recipients get is the same formulary established under the Georgia AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). The HHS committee passed the bill on Tuesday, sending it to the House for consideration.

Silcox (top photo) said the law is needed to address the difference in medication eligibility between ADAP and Medicaid.

“This is largely due to the fact that ADAP and Medicaid only review these formularies once a year and these drugs are either brand new drugs that haven’t been approved, or they may be old drugs that were previously reviewed and were rejected by those bodies,” she said.

HB 158 would also ensure that new antiretroviral regimens – including single-tablet regimens – be added to the Medicaid HIV drug list no later than 30 days after being added to the ADAP drug list. 

Silcox said evidence shows that people on a single-tablet regimen have “much, much better” compliance than if they have to take multiple pills.

“That’s why I’ve specified in the bill that a single-tablet regimen is so important,” she said.

Silcox also said it’s more cost effective for HIV-positive Georgians to be virally suppressed. She said that each new patient costs Medicaid $338,000 for HIV medications, a fraction of the cost for one that is not.

“This is far, far less than the $1.79 million for a patient that is not virally suppressed,” she said.

HB 158 has a bipartisan list of co-sponsors, including state Rep. Sharon Cooper, a Marietta Republican who chairs the HHS committee. Silcox is also a member of that committee. Rep. Mark Newton, a Republican from Augusta, as well as Reps. Kim Schofield of Atlanta and Spencer Frye of Athens – both Democrats – are co-sponsors.

If the bill passes the House, it would move to the Senate for consideration.

Georgia is number one in the nation in the number of new HIV cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

House Speaker David Ralston has called HIV “a serious issue” that the state “can’t take a blind eye to.”

State Rep. Jasmine Clark, a Democrat from Tucker, introduced a bill on Feb. 5 that would ensure Georgia’s K-12 students receive accurate information about HIV during sex-ed classes. House Bill 133 has been assigned to HHS but has not received a hearing.

Additional reporting by Ari Bee