India Manufacturer Offers Relief Group Deal on AIDS Drugs

Article excerpt

NEW DELHI, India -- In a challenge to big drug manufacturers, an Indian company is offering to supply AIDS drugs to a medical relief agency at 3.5 percent of the cost charged in Western countries, as long as they are distributed free.

Bombay-based Cipla Ltd. will sell the three-drug, anti-retroviral cocktail to Doctors Without Borders for $350 a year per patient, instead of the $10,000 to $15,000 charged in the United States and Europe, Cipla Chairman Yusuf Hamied said yesterday.

The decision could revolutionize the treatment of HIV patients in developing countries, where the virus is most rampant -- but it's unclear if the companies holding patents on the drugs will go along.

Annick Hamel, of Doctors Without Borders, said the Paris-based aid agency is studying the proposal "with a lot -- a lot -- of interest."

"It's going to make a huge difference," said Anjuli Gopalan, executive director of an advocacy group for AIDS patients in India, the Naz Foundation. But Gopalan warned the proposal could get India into "a lot of trouble" because of international patent laws enforced under the World Trade Organization.

The cocktail consists of two 40 milligram tablets of stavudine, two 150 milligram tablets of lamivudine and two 200 milligram tablets of nevirapine, all of which are patented and protected under WTO rules. …

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