Bloomberg: Who would have thought an emergency drug program for HIV would have used HIV drugs?

On Friday, Bloomberg reported that the U.S. government is set to buy more of the drug made by Pfizer, known also as the company “BZH” thanks to the company’s popular anti-HIV drug BZH. Pfizer actually commands 45 percent of the market share on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), as demonstrated by a 10.4 million opioid overdose death last year. An estimated 1 million Americans suffer from HIV — which is treatable with medication but still poses a threat.

Forty-one percent of all HIV cases in the U.S. can be linked to opioids. Until recently, the government was shifting away from purchasing multi-drug ARVs in favor of buying a single drug instead of the multi-drug drugs used when there is a shortage. However, the Pfizer deal is worth millions of dollars for the Obama Administration, as it is the first such program for buying multiple drugs in one transaction. According to Bloomberg, the deal also includes purchasing Truvada, the FDA-approved HIV anti-HIV drug in combination with Truvada, the anti-narcotic drug.

“It’s one thing to say to people we need to be concerned with their safety and their treatment. It’s another thing to say we can’t afford to get the drugs right now,” Eric Stern, a former clinical psychologist at Columbia University who is an independent researcher and consultant, told Bloomberg. He continued, “I’m not sure this is the smartest way to use our money. I think it might save a little money but in the end we may end up spending more than we’re saving.”

Questions remain surrounding whether this program can be successful and whether paying for one drug over another is the best use of money. Pfizer says the strategic purchasing of drugs is needed in order to save lives. More importantly, if buying pills for a patient is not the solution, then why are scientists not designing safer drugs. There’s obviously a problem with the medications in question, and it’s unclear whether it’s the right solution to simply switch patients to other drugs.

Although this was originally thought to be an emergency effort for the opioid epidemic, it could end up being a program meant to prevent HIV infections. An estimated 10,000 people in New York City contract HIV each year, with 82 percent of those people having a positive exposure to IV drug use. HIV drugs can help people with HIV (and HIV positive partners) survive when an opioid becomes a factor. It’s even possible that there may be potential for a death benefit if a person has to die early due to drug exposure. Of course, there are things to consider when treating HIV, such as which drugs can be used. For example, if patients already taking a drug called raltegravir can switch to this drug, their risk may decrease.

Pfizer’s BZH is effective on treating HIV, and has been widely regarded as the best anti-HIV drug on the market. Though Pfizer maintains that this is an emergency program, this is about moving market share in order to protect lives, not about moving market share for profit. It may prove to be a big step forward for other emergency pharmaceuticals.

Matthew Knott is a freelance writer in London who regularly writes about science and technology. He also founded the social media content platform You can follow him on twitter @matthewknott.

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