Drug Company Tries Novel Approach to Get AIDS Drugs to Poor Countries
January 27, 2003
In a novel approach aimed at increasing access to lifesaving medications, Pharmacia Corp. announced Friday it will let generic drug companies manufacture cheap copies of its antiretroviral delavirdine (Rescriptor) to sell in poor countries. Pharmacia -- which is being acquired by Pfizer Inc. -- said it will work with the International Dispensary Association in Amsterdam to provide licenses and technological skills to generic companies to make the drug.Adapted from:
IDA, a 30-year-old organization that works to get generic drugs into developing countries, would monitor production quality and collect a 5 percent royalty to cover costs and fund new research, according to the plan. The generic copies would sell in 78 countries where annual per capita income is less than $1,200 or the HIV infection rate is above 1 percent. The plan is meant as an alternative to compulsory licensing, under which countries facing health crises seize patent rights and make drugs without the cooperation of the original maker.
Even though the drug on offer is not in great demand, AIDS activists praised the idea of using a nonprofit agency as an intermediary. They stressed, however, that without billions more in aid from the West, the poorest countries will not be able to afford even the cheap generic copies.
Most importantly for Pharmacia and other companies being encouraged to follow its example, the copies would be different in shape, color, packaging and name from the same medicine sold in the West, thus helping customs officials spot smugglers bringing cheap pills back into developed countries.
Daniel Berman, spokesperson for the Essential Medicines campaign at Doctors Without Borders, called the model "really quite interesting." But he called on other companies to follow suit -- and for a mandatory system if they refuse. He also said delavirdine, which is usually taken with other drugs, is not on the World Health Organization's essential medicines list and is not much in demand.
01.24.03; Paul Geitner
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.