Multinational pharmaceutical companies need to strike 'a new deal' with society and significantly reduce prices on their patented antiretroviral drugs for developing nations so that more people have access to lifesaving AIDS medicines, UNAIDS said in a statement to be released on 15/02/01 in Geneva. UNAIDS joins this week's call from Oxfam for
reduced prices of AIDS drugs for developing nations.
Last May, five drug firms -- Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Boehringer Ingelheim,
Bristol-Myers Squibb and Hoffman-La Roche Inc. -- announced a plan to discount their drugs up to 80% for
African nations, but their treatments are still largely unaffordable and nine months later, the companies have
only contracted to provide lower-cost drugs with three countries - Senegal, Uganda, and Rwanda. A UNAIDS spokesperson
said on 14/02 that the drug industry program would extend drugs to only 900 people in
Senegal, out of an estimated 79,000 people living with HIV there; to 1,500
Ugandans out of 820,000 infected and to hundreds in Rwanda out of 400,000 infected.
In the statement, Piot called for radical solutions to make treatment available to the developing world,
including tiered pricing, open competition between brand-name and generic drugs in
permitting countries, bulk purchases of AIDS medicines by large regions and dramatically increased financing by the West to subsidize the
purchase of AIDS medicines in poor nations.
Merck spokesperson Jeffrey Sturchio responded, We agree with UNAIDS that there
needs to be a way to scale up, we agree there needs to be a sense of urgency, we agree we need
to do more. However, he added, Let's not lose sight of the fact that the pharmaceutical industry, and Merck in particular, has been
significantly involved in drug discovery and we need to continue to do that. Sturchio said the slow negotiations with African countries
were due largely to the countries themselves, which are trying to put together comprehensive plans for AIDS treatment
and prevention, and noted that about 35 other nations are in the queue hoping to work with the drug
(Source: Kaiser Daily HIV report, 15/02/01)