GlaxoSmithKline to Allow Generic Production in South Africa of Three Patented Antiretrovirals
Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline announced yesterday that it will grant a license to South African drug maker Aspen Pharmacare to sell generic versions of three of its patented antiretroviral drugs in South Africa, the Wall Street Journal reports. Aspen will produce generic copies of AZT (zidovudine), 3TC (lamivudine) and Combivir (combination zidovudine/lamivudine) "to the public or government sector as well as to certain" not-for-profit organizations and charities. GSK and Shire Pharmaceuticals, which licenses 3TC to GSK, will not collect any royalties on the sales of the generic medicines, but Aspen will pay a 30% fee on net sales. The money from this fee will be allocated to "one or more" nongovernmental organizations for AIDS education and prevention efforts (Zimmerman, Wall Street Journal, 10/8). Under the agreement, Aspen will not be allowed to sell the generic versions of the medicines to any other African country (Nessman, Associated Press, 10/7). Howard Pien, president of international pharmaceuticals at GSK, said of the agreement, "We are committed to playing a full and responsible part in the search for sustainable approaches to the health care challenges of the developing world. Through this partnership, we seek to make a meaningful contribution to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa" (Shah, London Independent, 10/8).
Priced Within Reach?
Aspen has not indicated what it will charge for the generic drugs (Wall Street Journal, 10/8). Before the agreement with Aspen, GSK had offered Combivir to the South African public health system for approximately $2 per patient per day. South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said that "even at that price," purchasing the antiretrovirals would "bankrupt the health department" (Associated Press, 10/7). BBC News reports that "industry sources" estimate that Aspen will sell a generic version of Combivir for $1.80 per patient per day, generic AZT for $1.60 per patient per day and generic 3TC for 60 cents per patient per day. However, these prices are still more than those offered by Indian drug firm Cipla Ltd. (BBC News, 10/8). In February, Cipla offered to supply "unlimited doses" of triple-drug antiretroviral cocktails to Doctors Without Borders at a price of $350 per patient per year (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/7). GSK will continue to sell its patented versions of the antiretrovirals in South Africa's private sector. Pien said that GSK "isn't really losing much" money in sales by allowing Aspen to produce the medicines because South Africa's public sector does not constitute a large market for the company.
Aspen on the Go
Earlier this year, drug firm Bristol-Myers Squibb said that it "wouldn't sue Aspen" if it produced generic versions of Bristol-Myers' antiretrovirals Zerit and Videx. However, this offer "fell short of" a license, which Aspen had been seeking. The two companies are still negotiating on a deal and could reach a final settlement soon, according to the Journal (Wall Street Journal, 10/8).