Bristol-Myers Squibb's Southern Africa general manager, Ian Strachan, said the company's two antiretroviral drugs, Zerit and Videx - would be made available at the combined price of $1 a day (about R8 a day) to both the private and public healthcare sectors, starting from Thursday.
Now that pharmaceutical court action has stopped, act can be promulgated. Health department drug experts have spent the past two days drawing up proposed regulations for the Medicines and Related Substances Control Amendment Act of 1997 so that it can be promulgated and put to work as soon as possible. High on the list are proposed regulations to deal with parallel importation such as who would be licensed to do the importing, whether and how imported medicines would be registered and how this would be monitored, according to one of the health department's advisers on drug issues, James Love, of the Consumer Project on Technology, a Ralph Nader group. In the armoury of provisions hoped to have the effect of dropping prices are a fixed single exit price for medicines that will not be varied by discounts; increased use of generic copies in prescriptions; and the ability to import brand name drugs available at lower prices outside SA than in it. (Source: Business Day, 26 April 2001)
This week, US drug giant Bristol-Myers Squibb announced that it is slashing the prices of its HIV/AIDS drugs Zerit and Videx for Africa, and added that it will not object to South Africa licensing imports or producing generic copies of the two drugs, also known as stavudine and didanosine. Makers of generics will have to compete with the below-cost prices Bristol-Myers Squibb said it would now offer all African countries $0,15 a day for Zerit and $0,85 a day for Videx. Zerit costs a patient about $100 a day in the US. Cipla has offered to sell it for $0,20 a day. The Bristol-Myers Squibb offer was greeted coolly by Zackie Achmat of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the group which lobbies for greater access to medicines by people with HIV/AIDS. Bristol-Myers Squibb should be held accountable for the millions of dollars it had already earned from people with HIV/AIDS, said Achmat. The company had not invented the drugs and had spent almost nothing on their development. He said the TAC was applying for a compulsory licence for the drugs and wondered if this, or a row with Yale University in the US, had forced the firm's hand. There have also been further international developments with other pharmaceutical companies. Most, if not all, pharmaceutical companies involved in the United Nations access initiative on HIV/AIDS medicines have reduced the prices of their drugs significantly recently. The moves by Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and, yesterday, Bristol-Myers Squibb remove price as the largest obstacle in the way of providing the antiretroviral drugs needed for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Roche, which was involved in the programme, has not announced new moves on access to its product used in HIV/AIDS. (Source: Simon Barber, Business Times, 15 March 2001 and Pat Sidley: Business Day, 15 March 2001)
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether SmithKline Beecham, the British drug company, has engaged in illegal trade practices by keeping competitors from selling generic, lower-cost versions of Paxil, its popular antidepressant. The disclosure of the F.T.C. inquiry came in a filing on Tuesday in Federal District Court in Chicago by lawyers for the Apotex Corporation, one of the companies that wants to make a generic version of Paxil. The F.T.C. confirmed yesterday that it was conducting a preliminary inquiry, but would not discuss any details. Brian L. Jones, a spokesman for SmithKline, said yesterday that the company had not broken any laws and, instead, was simply taking legal measures to protect its rights to Paxil, which it believes is covered by valid patents. In recent months, other drug companies, facing the expiration of their patent protection on brand-name drugs and efforts by generics makers to sell lower-cost versions, have also filed additional patents. Those filings, by companies like Bristol- Myers Squibb and Pfizer, have raised suspicions among regulators that the brand-name companies are trying to use a loophole in federal law to keep generic drugs off the market.
According to Paulo Roberto Teixeira, the head of Brazil's AIDS programme, Brazil had offered - at the AIDS conference in Durban in July - to help South Africa set up the local production of generic HIV/AIDS drugs, but to date there had been no answer from Pretoria.
A legal manoeuvre by Bristol-Myers Squibb on 15/8 is likely to delay the launch of a less expensive, generic form of Taxol, the world's top selling cancer drug. A legal manoeuvre by Bristol-Myers Squibb on 15/8 is likely to delay the launch of a less expensive, generic form of Taxol, the world's top selling cancer drug.