Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
South African Generic Drug Manufacturer Requests Permission to Produce Patented AIDS Drugs
Aspen Pharmacare, the largest generic drug producer in South Africa, announced yesterday that it would "seek permission" from five other companies to manufacture patented AIDS medications, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Aspen has already obtained the raw materials to produce the drugs but will not begin the process unless the patent holders approve. The AP/Inquirer reports that Aspen has asked Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boehringer Ingelheim, Roche, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline for permission to produce their AIDS medications. However, some of the "major" companies have "voiced reservations" about allowing generic production, saying their factories enable them to produce drugs less expensively than small local companies. Vikash Salig, Aspen's new business development director, said that the company has two plants in South Africa, exports drugs to 30 countries and has the capability to produce "enough drugs" to treat millions of patients. Robert Lefebvre, senior director for project access at Bristol-Myers, said the company is open to "negotiating licensing agreements." He added that two of its AIDS drugs may already be produced generically, as Videx does not have a patent and the firm does not plan on enforcing its patent on Zerit. He added, "We are not going to let the patent stand in the way of making the medication accessible or affordable" (Cohen, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/17).
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