Geneva - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomes the announcement made by generic drug manufacturer Cipla, that it will sell its triple-combination therapy for AIDS to MSF for $350 per year per patient and to governments for $600/year. The details of the offer request that government purchases have the "backing of MSF," which is not practical or necessary, therefore MSF requests that Cipla offer this price directly to governments and UN agencies.
This offer demonstrates that the target price of $200/year, set out in an MSF report at the international AIDS conference in Durban last July, is almost within reach. The $350 price is a discount of 96.6% off the price of the same combination in the US, which would cost about $10,400.
For the short term, MSF calls on the five pharmaceutical companies involved in the UNAIDS Accelerating Access Initiative to match the current offer, make their prices public, and streamline the implementation process, so that drugs can be delivered as quickly as possible to patients. The offer by Indian generic manufacturer Cipla demonstrates that proprietary companies can immediately reduce their prices further. On World AIDS Day, MSF called on the five companies to lower their US prices by 95%.
No company has responded positively. Under the UNAIDS initiative, Senegal is currently paying $1008 to $1821 per year - almost three times the generic price - while companies have refused to disclose prices for Uganda and Rwanda. Political commitment to combating AIDS and improving access to treatment is a cornerstone of defeating this epidemic.
For example, the political commitment of the government of Brazil has successfully cut AIDS deaths in half, largely thanks to its ability to produce generic AIDS medicines. Large-scale quality producers, including the government of Brazil, can both supply life-saving medicines to other developing countries and support their efforts to begin domestic production.
Developing countries should take full advantage of their rights to produce or import generic AIDS drugs under the WTO TRIPS agreement. The immediate challenge is to convert this generic price into action. The international community must now provide political, practical, and financial support. Political support is needed for developing countries to overcome barriers posed by patents.
The UN system can provide practical support through procurement and distribution assistance. And donors can provide financial support by allocating funds for purchase of drugs and implementation of antiretroviral treatment programmes. An international meeting should immediately convene developing countries, UN agencies, drug manufacturers, and funders to determine the best strategy for implementation.