Despite South African Pleas, GlaxoSmithKline Will Not Further Reduce AIDS Medication Price for Developing Countries
Despite "pleas" from South African health officials that Western anti-AIDS drugs are "still too costly," GlaxoSmithKline said last week that it would not cut the price of AIDS medications for developing countries any more than the 90% it already has offered, Reuters Health reports. South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said, "We have no objection in principle to the use of antiretrovirals. But cost remains an enormous barrier that cannot be wished away." GSK has offered Combivir to the South African state of Pretoria for $56 per patient for one month's treatment, "a major discount on the average world price," Reuters Health reports. A GSK spokesperson said, "A 90% reduction is a significant offer ... a huge reduction. We are not going to go further because we would get into a ridiculous situation." But Pretoria officials say that the drug firm has "failed to offer concrete price discounts on sustainable supplies of medicines," adding that the company is only offering the reduced-price drugs for up to five years. Pretoria officials add that the price mentioned in meetings with the drug maker "would still break its health budget." GSK's announcement that it would offer no further price reduction comes only a few weeks before an international court case addressing South Africa's 1997 Medicines Control Act is set to resume on April 18. In that case, 39 drug firms say that the "planned" legislation will infringe on their patent rights by allowing the Health Ministry to import or manufacture cheaper generic medicines. AIDS activists and organizations say that the drug firms "are putting profits ahead of lives and abusing their patents," noting that 25 million Africans have HIV/AIDS (Woodman, Reuters Health, 4/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.