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International News

Cheap AIDS Drug Pioneer India Faces Many Hurdles on Own Turf

December 11, 2006

India, while a pioneer in producing generic antiretrovirals (ARVs), is not providing low-cost treatment to many of its own 5.7 million HIV/AIDS patients, some activists and experts say.

According to UNAIDS, only 55,000 Indians are receiving antiretroviral treatment, 7 percent of those who need the drugs. By comparison, Brazil, with 620,000 HIV patients, treats 83 percent of those who need the medications. Brazil credits its dual campaign of prevention and treatment with halving death rates from HIV in the past 10 years.

India's government program, launched in 2004 with eight centers, now has 101 centers to treat about 40,000 patients. Some 5,500 patients get drugs from their public employers or though nongovernmental organizations. Another 6,000 patients get treatment privately.

A consultant to the ARV treatment program run by the National AIDS Council said India is increasing its efforts and expects to be treating 100,000 HIV/AIDS patients by the end of 2007. B.B. Riwari said the government added 600 testing and counseling centers in the last six months.

Riwari added that the Indian government spent 7 billion rupees ($155 million US) last year on HIV/AIDS, more than on any other single disease. Nevertheless, the government says it cannot afford to include the more expensive second-line drugs necessary when HIV becomes resistant to first-line drugs.

Pharmaceutical company Cipla said it will work with government laboratories to give them the technology to produce second-line drugs, an option Riwari said is under consideration.

However, that plan could be hampered by a new law designed to comply with World Trade Organization requirements. India now grants protection to drugs patented after Jan. 1, 1995, and not yet brought to market -- a category that could include many second-line drugs.

Back to other news for December 11, 2006

Adapted from:
Agence France Presse
11.30.2006; Tripti Lahiri

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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.
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