Bristol-Myers, Baylor College To Launch $40M Pediatric HIV/AIDS Treatment Initiative in Developing Nations
Pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb and Baylor College of Medicine on Monday are expected to announce they will launch a $40 million initiative to treat children living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries, the AP/Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Under the initiative, which is part of the drug maker's Secure the Future program, Baylor -- which is based in Houston, Texas -- and New York-based BMS will send as many as 250 physicians to Africa for a two-year program to train local health care workers and treat HIV-positive children. Baylor will contribute approximately $10 million to the program to pay up to $40,000 per person in student loans for participating doctors. BMS will contribute $30 million to the initiative, a portion of which will be used to pay each participating doctor an annual stipend of $30,000 plus living expenses (Agovino, AP/Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/27). BMS also will reduce the price of pediatric formulations of its antiretroviral drugs Zerit and Videx in developing countries. The cost of Videx will be reduced from $1.50 daily to 85 cents daily, and Zerit will be offered at 15 cents daily, down from $1.43. In addition, the company is building four children's clinics -- two in Africa and two in non-African countries highly affected by HIV/AIDS. Clinics in Uganda and Burkina Faso are expected to open next summer, and clinics in Russia and China are being considered.
"This really gets at one of the unmet needs on the continent of Africa -- the treatment of children and the great many children who are dying because they don't have access to lifesaving medicines," Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation President John Damonti said. However, some HIV/AIDS advocates said that the program does not do enough to address the mass emigration of health care workers from Africa or make more drugs available to HIV-positive children. "We need a bigger solution than what they're proposing," Global AIDS Alliance Executive Director Paul Zeitz said, adding, "There are 500,000 children dying of AIDS each year and most are in Africa. They shouldn't be patting themselves on the back" (Silverman/Jordan, Newark Star Ledger, 6/27). He added that BMS should fund more medical schools in Africa and permit other drug makers to manufacture generic versions of its antiretrovirals to further reduce their costs. BMS spokesperson Becky Taylor said that the pharmaceutical company does not enforce its patents in Africa so that generic manufacturers can make copies of its medications. "We agree the problem is immense, and we hope others will join us in the effort," she said (AP/Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/27).