In an effort to stay one step ahead of AIDS activists and generic competitors, Merck & Co. said it will cut the price of its new once-daily pill Stocrin to less than $1 a day in the poorest and hardest-hit countries -- a reduction of more than 30 percent from the present price. Stocrin, known generically as efavirenz, is frequently used in triple combination cocktail therapy for HIV patients.
Activists welcomed the price cut but questioned the timing of the announcement, suggesting it is linked to a public relations campaign surrounding Merck's launch of the new one-pill dose in 52 nations. Doctors Without Borders spokesperson Rachel Cohen pointed out that big drug companies only began significantly discounting their AIDS medications two years ago after generic competition arose and activists began clamoring for price cuts. On September 5, GlaxoSmithKline announced price reductions of as much as 33 percent on several AIDS medicines in the developing world.
But Merck spokesperson Jeffrey Sturchio said the recent reductions, which bring the cost of the new Stocrin down to $346.75 per patient per year, show "it simply isn't a case of generics leading the price decreases." Indeed, four Indian generic companies make Stocrin for $438-658 a year, according to DWB.
The new move cuts the price of Stocrin to 95 cents a day in poor and hard-hit countries (down from $1.37). In middle-income nations like Brazil, Mexico, Jamaica and China, Merck is offering the medicine at $2.10 a day (down from $2.52). Under an agreement, Bristol-Myers Squibb sells the same drug as Sustiva in the United States, Canada, Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. In the United States, where the new 600-milligram dose has been available since February, the price is $12 a day.
Back to other CDC news for October 23, 2002