Drug firms to drop Aids pills prices

In a massive breakthrough for poor countries struggling to meet the demand for antiretrovirals, the Clinton Foundation has signed an agreement with two key US drug companies to make HIV-Aids and tuberculosis treatment more affordable for developing countries.

In a massive breakthrough for poor countries struggling to meet the demand for antiretrovirals, the Clinton Foundation has signed an agreement with two key US drug companies to make HIV-Aids and tuberculosis treatment more affordable for developing countries.

Former US president Bill Clinton announced that Maylan and its extension Matrix had agreed to make available a second line therapy for HIV-infected people. The second line package, inclusive of antiretroviral drugs Azanavir, Ritonavir, Tenofovir, and Lamivudine (3TC) will be sold at less than R4000 a year.

All four drugs will be sold as three pills with Tenefovir and Lamivudine combined into one at R3800 annually. Starting from next year the pills are going to be made available as one package at an annual cost of R3400.

The foundation said the discount amounted to R3,2billion in savings for the next five years.

The second agreement was with Pfizer to reduce and expand the availability of Rifabutin, the drug used to treat TB in patients on second line ARV therapy.

The World Health Organisation has said that TB is the leading cause of death among HIV-infected people, resulting in more than 456000 deaths in 2007.

Pfizer has agreed to sell the drugs at R8 per dose or R270 for a full course of six months.

Developing countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and the Caribbean that are part of the Clinton Foundation's Procurement Consortium will benefit from the price reduction.

Clinton said his foundation's HIV-Aids initiative had put two million people on ARV therapy, and that this agreement would ensure that there was uninterrupted access to treatment.

"But their continued survival depends on uninterrupted access to medicines and quality, and affordable health care throughout their entire life. Today's announcement will help ensure we can sustain treatment and better treat patients with both HIV and TB," he said.

Paula Akugizibwe of the Aids and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa welcomed the announcement.

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