June 30, 2004
Wang on Tuesday also discussed a pending deal between the Chinese government and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline over the price of its antiretroviral drug lamivudine, which is sold under the brand name Epivir. Because the drug also can be used to treat hepatitis B -- which affects more people in China than HIV/AIDS -- GSK originally was reluctant to reduce its price, Mao Qunan, deputy director general of the health ministry's Department of General Administration, said, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. Therefore, the government agreed to purchase the drug directly from GSK to ensure that the discounted price is applied to HIV-positive people only, Mao said, adding that when the drug is sold as a hepatitis B treatment, it will be sold at market price. Wang said that the government plans to begin distributing the discounted drug in the third quarter of this year and hopes to treat 50,000 HIV-positive people by the end of 2005. The agreement is the country's first successful attempt to secure discounted drugs for its antiretroviral drug program, which previously had been able to distribute only older drugs that can cause serious side effects, Mao said, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. "We only have two to three treatment therapies right now," Mao said. About 1,000 of the more than 7,000 people in the country's antiretroviral drug program have stopped taking the drugs, many because of side effects (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/29).
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