Australia Set to Make Deal with Drug Makers to Provide Cheaper AIDS Drugs to Asian Nations
The Australian government is "about to seal an agreement" with the Australian branches of Pfizer Corp., Glaxo Wellcome PLC, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Bayer Corp. and Boehringer Ingelheim that would cut the price of AIDS drugs for people in the Asia-Pacific region, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The agreement would reduce the annual cost of treating people with HIV/AIDS in countries such as Thailand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji from about $5,100 to "as little" as $255. Australia Health Minister Michael Wooldridge said, "I think making low-priced pharmaceuticals available would be of enormous benefit in fighting the spread of HIV in our region. Asia could very well become the world epicenter of HIV if we take our eye off the ball." Under the agreement, the drug companies would not receive tax breaks or "any other special treatment" for providing the price reduction. "This would be the companies showing that they are good citizens and getting ahead of the game, rather than being dragged kicking and screaming into agreement," Wooldridge said. He added that he hoped to "firm up" the agreement after he returned from the U.N. special session on AIDS. Alan Evans, chief executive of the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, said, "We are looking forward to continued discussions with the minister when he comes home and are getting a full report from him of developments at the AIDS conference." The agreement requires a "number of bilateral agreements with the countries involved," the Morning Herald reports. Wooldridge said he wanted the first lot of the cheaper drugs to go to HIV-positive pregnant women (Riley, Sydney Morning Herald, 6/29). Australian Senior Health Official Rob Moodie, who is helping coordinate AIDS policy in Asia, said the "ambitious" plan would "save lives," but added that even with the price break, the drugs would still be too expensive for "hundreds of millions of people" (Reuters, 6/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.