AIDS Group Battles GlaxoSmithKline

Tuesday, May 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ AIDS Healthcare Foundation, one of the largest providers of specialized care for HIV patients in the United States, said it will bar GlaxoSmithKline from marketing drugs at its outpatient sites to protest the company's pricing policies.

Although the British-based company offers reduced prices for AIDS drugs sold in the developing world, the foundation claims the drug manufacturer still charges twice as much as its competitors _ an allegation GlaxoSmithKline counters by noting it makes no profits on those sales.

By barring GlaxoSmithKline sales representatives from its physicians' offices, the foundation hopes to block the main channel the company uses to inform doctors directly about new products.

``Glaxo's actions have put it outside the bounds of corporate responsibility,'' said Michael Weinstein, president of the foundation that serves thousands of patients in California, New York and Florida.

The cost to treat a single AIDS patient with a combination of Glaxo drugs is nearly $2,000 a year but easily could be cut to $500, according to Cesar Portillo, a foundation spokesman. He said increasing the availability of the drugs would go a long way to reducing the death toll from AIDS.

Many pharmaceutical companies discount drugs in the developing world, and GlaxoSmithKline acknowledges that some generic AIDS drugs do sell in the developing world for half the price of its comparable products.

But the company said it has reduced prices by as much as 90 percent and does not make money on AIDS medications is sells to the developing world.

``You have to cover your basic costs of manufacturing,'' spokeswoman Nancy Pekarek said. ``You can't just give it away for the long term. You have to ensure there's going to be a stable supply.''

Pekarek said she regretted the foundation's move, but did not expect it will have any effect on the company's sales force.

GlaxoSmithKline charges $2 for a day's supply of Combivir tablets, a combination of the drugs AZT and 3TC. A generic version costs about $1. In the United States the list price for Combivir is $17.23 a day, Pekarek said.

The foundation said it also targeted GlaxoSmithKline for failing to make any major charitable donation to help people with AIDS in the developing world.

Pekarek said the charge is false and that between 1992 and 2001 the company donated $55 million to groups that provide education, care and support to AIDS patients in some 50 developing countries.

One of the world's largest drug companies, GlaxoSmithKline produces prescription drugs such as the anti-depressant Paxil, and over-the-counter products, such as Aquafresh toothpaste.

The company reported a profit of $1.6 billion on sales of $7.3 billion in the first quarter.