Clinton Foundation Announces Deal With Drug Companies To Reduce Cost of Antiretrovirals in Developing Countries
Former President Clinton on Tuesday in New York City announced agreements between the Clinton Foundation and Indian drug manufacturers Cipla and Matrix Laboratories to reduce the cost of some second-line antiretroviral drugs in developing countries, the New York Times reports (Dugger, New York Times, 5/9). According to Clinton, second-line antiretrovirals, which are needed for people who have developed resistance to first-line treatments, can cost 10 times as much as first-line drugs, the AP/USA Today reports. Nearly 500,000 HIV-positive people will need access to second-line drugs by 2010 (AP/USA Today, 5/8). Under the agreement, the foundation will provide reduced-cost antiretrovirals to 66 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Reuters reports. The agreement will generate an average savings of 25% in low-income countries and 50% in middle-income countries (Reuters, 5/8).
Clinton also announced a deal that will make a once daily, first-line combination pill available for less than $1 per dose, the AP/USA Today reports. According to Clinton, the treatment -- which combines the antiretrovirals tenofovir, lamivudine and efavirenz -- will cost $339 per patient annually, which is about 45% lower than the price currently available in low-income countries and 67% lower than the price in many middle-income countries. Clinton said Cipla and Matrix worked with the foundation to lower production costs in part by obtaining lower prices for raw materials (AP/USA Today, 5/8). According to the Times, provision of the first-line, combination therapy largely will be financed by the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as other donors (New York Times, 5/9).
UNITAID, an organization formed by France and 19 other nations that have set aside a portion of their airline tax revenues for programs in developing countries, will provide the foundation with more than $100 million to purchase second-line drugs for 27 countries (AP/USA Today, 5/8). UNITAID and the foundation plan to begin purchasing the reduced-price drugs in July, and the medications will be delivered to people in need of treatment in developing countries, Clinton said (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/8).
Clinton, UNITAID Comments
"Seven million people in the developing world are in need of treatment for HIV/AIDS," Clinton said, adding, "We are trying to meet that need with the best medicine available today and at prices that low- and middle-income countries can afford. I applaud Cipla and Matrix for their commitment to lower the cost of new drugs at the forefront of the fight against AIDS, and I thank UNITAID for the funds that have enabled us to make these drugs widely available" (Clinton Foundation release, 5/8). French Foreign Minister and chair of UNITAID's board Philippe Douste-Blazy in a statement said, "Every person living with HIV deserves access to the most effective medicines, and UNITAID aims to ensure that these are affordable for all developing countries" (AP/USA Today, 5/8).
Clinton Comments on Compulsory Licensing in Thailand, Brazil
Clinton on Tuesday also "forcefully endorsed" recent decisions by Thailand and Brazil to issue compulsory licenses for several medications, including some antiretrovirals, the Times reports. Standing next to Thailand's Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla, Clinton said, "No company will live or die because of high price premiums for AIDS drugs in middle-income countries, but patients may" (New York Times, 5/9). He added that the prices for antiretrovirals are "simply exorbitant in middle-income countries like Brazil and Thailand" and that these countries are "home to fully half the people on treatment" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/8). Clinton said that he believes in "intellectual property and ensuring that manufacturers earn the profit margins they need to keep the discovery and supply of AIDS drugs sustainable. But that shouldn't prevent us from getting essential, life-saving medicines to those who need them in low- and middle-income countries alike (AP/USA Today, 5/8). Jennifer Smoter, a spokesperson for the pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories, said patents are needed "to ensure innovation in the future." She declined to respond directly to Clinton's comments, the Times reports (New York Times, 5/9).
CNN's "The Situation Room" on Tuesday included a discussion with Clinton about the agreement (Blitzer, "The Situation Room," CNN, 5/8). A transcript of the segment is available online.