Cheaper drugs for Aids patients

Bill Clinton announces deal with Indian drug firms to cut price of anti-retrovirals.

    Clinton's foundation and the firms managed to secure lower prices for raw materials for the drugs [Reuters]
    The companies collaborated with the foundation to lower production costs, in part by securing lower prices for raw materials, he said.
     
    The drugs are about 10 times the price of first-line treatments, he said, noting that nearly a half million patients will require these drugs by 2010.
     
    "That's a very great strain on countries' healthcare budgets, and governments fear all over the world that they will simply not be able to keep patients on treatment," he said.
     
    The pact between the Clinton Foundation and Indian companies Cipla and Matrix Laboratories covers 66 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
     
    HIV/Aids is widespread in many countries in Africa and South-East Asia.
     
    Breaking patents
     
    Clinton also said he supported Brazil and Thailand's efforts to challenge drug patents of big pharmaceutical companies.
     
    Thailand this year issued licences for cheap generic versions of Abbott Laboratories' Kaletra for HIV, and Brazil last week took a similar step with Merck & Co's Efavirenz.
     

    The deal covers 66 countries in Africa, Asia,
    Latin America and the Caribbean [EPA]

    The US government put Thailand on a "priority watch list" of nations where American companies face problems with protection of intellectual property rights.
     
    "I strongly support the position of the governments of Thailand and Brazil and their decision after futile negotiations to break these patents," he said.
     
    Clinton also said a new once-daily pill now prohibitively expensive in developing countries would be made available for less than $1 a day.
     
    He said the pill combines the drugs Tenofovir and Lamivudine and Efavirenz.
     
    "This drug represents the best chance that science has to offer," said Clinton, who was joined by the health ministers of Thailand and Kenya as well as the chairman of Matrix.
     
    The new cost for this treatment of $339 per patient per year marks a 45 per cent reduction from the current rate available to low-income countries and a 67 per cent reduction from the price available to many middle-income countries, the foundation said.
     
    The announcement is one of several price reductions the Clinton Foundation said its HIV/Aids initiative has helped broker since 2002.
     
    Some 750,000 people are receiving drug treatment for HIV/Aids through the foundation, it said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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