3 pharma cos to make AIDS drugs affordable

MUMBAI: Under sustained pressure from AIDS activists, three multinational pharma companies have frozen price of certain AIDS drugs.

Cipla, which has played a singular role in setting the global benchmark for cheaper AIDS drugs and has forced MNCs to revise prices, is all set to lower the prices of its AIDS drugs for the domestic market. Late last week, Merck garnered some goodwill in the AIDS community with price-freezes and discounts on its HIV drugs.

Merck agreed to freeze till 2010, the price of its novel HIV drug at $9,900 a year, its launch price. Separately, Merck also agreed to offer discounts of up to 40% on other AIDS drugs in Mexico. This decrease comes in the wake of price reductions by Gilead Sciences and Boehringer-Ingelheim.

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla, for TNN

For its part, Cipla is looking at another downward revision, in line with its quarterly review. As Cipla’s joint MD Amar Lulla said, "We have been reducing prices on our AIDS drugs every quarter. There is a whole range of products that we keep reducing prices on."

A similar revision is expected to be played out in Uganda, where over 2.4 million people are HIV-positive and virtually every family has lost someone to the virus. In late August, a new $32-million factory owned by Cipla and a local group called Quality Chemicals is expected to start commercial production of ARV.

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