GlaxoSmithKline lowers prices of AIDS drugs in world's poorest countries

Monday, April 28th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ GlaxoSmithKline on Monday further reduced the prices of its AIDS medicines for the world's poorest countries by up to 47 percent _ the fifth time since 1997 that the company has cut prices.

The world's second largest drug company said more efficient manufacturing contributed to the reduction. The last time it lowered prices was in September 2002.

The discounts are available to the world's least developed countries and all of sub-Saharan Africa _ a total of 63 countries.

The latest reduction lowers the price of Combivir, central to most HIV/AIDS treatment regimens, by 47 percent to 90 cents a day. The price of Epivir fell 45 percent to 35 cents a day, while Retrovir's price declined 38 percent to 75 cents a day.

In the United States and Europe, an AIDS treatment regimen averages about $15,000 per year. Under pressure from activists, the companies that manufacture AIDS drugs have cut prices for developing countries, and now many, like Glaxo, sell them there at no profit.

While AIDS activists welcomed Glaxo's latest price cut, they said generic drugs still cost less. For example, the generic version of Combivir can be purchased for 56 cents a day, according to Rachel Cohen, advocacy liaison for Doctors Without Borders.

``It is always good when prices come down,'' Cohen said. ``But I worry such announcements could divert attention from the need for a more systematic approach to lower drug pricing.''

Jean-Pierre Garnier, Glaxo's chief executive, said more funding is needed to address the AIDS epidemic.

``Such funding and the long-term (drug) orders they encourage is essential to build the demand ... needed to underpin price reductions,'' he said.

Dealing with the epidemic must also include improving the health care delivery system in the developing world, he said.