Vaccine Targeting C Strain of HIV May Enter First-Stage Clinical Testing in India Next Year
An AIDS vaccine tailored for the Indian population could begin first-stage testing in New Delhi by the end of next year, Agence France-Presse reports. The vaccine, which is being developed by the Indian Council of Medical Research and U.S. vaccine maker Therion Biologics, would target HIV subtype C, the strain that is most prevalent in India. "Developed countries ... are putting their resources into developing their own vaccines to combat the HIV subtype A found commonly in their population. So we have to do everything in our power to win the race against time to come up with our own indigenous anti-AIDS vaccine," J.V.R. Prasada Rao, head of India's National AIDS Control Organization, explained, adding that any AIDS vaccine designed for the Indian population must be low-cost and effective. Last year the Indian health ministry and the ICMR signed a pact with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to develop an AIDS vaccine "appropriate for use in India." ICMR researchers are working with Therion to decode the six genes specific to HIV subtype C, which Therion will then transfer to ICMR by late 2003, when the first phase of clinical trials will begin, Aman Gupta of IAVI said. An effective vaccine could take up to 12 years to develop (Agence France-Presse, 4/16).
Antiretroviral Drug Sales Up in India
Price cuts have made antiretroviral drugs affordable to a greater proportion of the Indian population, resulting in a sharp increase in drug sales, the Indian Economic Times reports. Sales of antiretroviral drugs grew by 107% between January and December 2001, largely due to continuous price cuts by generic manufacturer Cipla Ltd. and other drug makers. "The prices of anti-HIV drugs during the past one year have come down by nearly 40%, making them more affordable," V. Punya Kumar of Cadila Pharmaceuticals said. In addition, a larger number of non-governmental organizations have been purchasing antiretrovirals and distributing them to patients (Economic Times, 4/17).