The state Department of Health Services has raised the income ceiling for the federally funded AZT drug program, enabling more San Diegans with AIDS and AIDS-related complex to receive the expensive drug that makes the disease more bearable.
Dr. Donald G. Ramras, deputy director for the San Diego County Public Health Services, said that, effective Feb. 1, anyone who makes $22,000 or less a year can qualify for financial assistance to receive azidothymidine, or AZT, treatment. The previous limit had been $11,000.
However, Ramras said that individuals with Medi-Cal or other health insurance do not qualify for the federal program.
A month's supply of AZT costs about $900, he said, but program participants can receive financial assistance.
He said 23 people are currently receiving AZT through the program, which opened in San Diego in November.
Despite adverse side effects of AZT in some patients, Ramras said that, for others, "it does seem to make life a little better."
"The bottom line is that (AZT) is definitely not a cure for AIDS," he said.
To enroll, he said, people with AIDS must obtain a prescription from their physician and visit County Health Services after making an appointment.
He said homebound AIDS patients who qualify can have someone call the office to make arrangements to receive the drug.