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Clinton Foundation deal to cut AIDS drugs cost

/ Source: The Associated Press

Former President Bill Clinton announced agreements with drug companies Tuesday to lower the price of so-called “second-line” AIDS drugs for people in the developing world and to make a once-a-day AIDS pill available for less than $1 a day.

The anti-retroviral drugs are needed by patients who develop resistance to first-line treatment and currently cost 10 times as much as first-line therapy, Clinton said. Nearly half a million patients will require these drugs by 2010.

“No company will live or die because of high price premiums for AIDS drugs in middle-income countries, but patients may,” Clinton said Tuesday.

“I believe in intellectual property and ensuring that manufacturers earn the profit margins they need to keep the discovery and supply of AIDS drugs sustainable. But that shouldn’t prevent us from getting essential life-saving medicines to those who need them in low and middle-income countries alike,” he said.

Clinton’s foundation negotiated agreements with generic drug makers Cipla Ltd. and Matrix Laboratories Ltd. that he said would mean an average savings of 25 percent in low-income countries and 50 percent in middle-income countries. He said the companies collaborated with the foundation to lower production costs, in part by securing lower prices for raw materials.

The reduced-price, once-daily pill combines the drugs tenofovir, lamivudine and efavirenz.

Clinton said the new price of $339 per patient per year would be 45 percent lower than the current rate available to low-income countries and 67 percent less than the price available to many middle-income countries

“Seven million people in the developing world are in need of treatment for HIV/AIDS,” Clinton said. “We are trying to meet that need with the best medicine available today, and at prices that low and middle-income countries can afford.”

The Clinton Foundation’s activities are being financed by UNITAID, an organization formed by France and 19 other nations that have earmarked a small portion of their airline tax revenues for HIV/AIDS programs in developing countries.

UNITAID will provide the foundation with more than $100 million to buy second-line medicines for 27 countries through 2008.

“Every person living with HIV deserves access to the most effective medicines, and UNITAID aims to ensure that these are affordable for all developing countries,” French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, chairman of UNITAID’s board, said in a statement.

Since starting its HIV/AIDS Initiative in 2002, the Clinton Foundation has worked with 25 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia to set up AIDS treatment and prevention programs.

The foundation also provides access to lower-priced AIDS drugs in 65 countries. Some 750,000 people are now receiving AIDS drugs purchased through the Clinton Foundation.