AIDS Healthcare Foundation Bars GlaxoSmithKline Representatives From Its Outpatient Clinics
In protest of GlaxoSmithKline's pricing policies for its antiretroviral drugs in developing countries, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation will no longer allow GSK representatives to market medicines at the foundation's outpatient clinics, the AP/Los Angeles Times reports (Avery, AP/Los Angeles Times, 5/28). Cesar Portillo, a spokesperson for AHF, said that in developing countries it currently costs almost $2,000 per year to treat one HIV patient with a combination of GSK medicines (Avery, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/28). AHF said that although GSK has lowered the prices of its AIDS drugs in developing nations, the medicines still cost twice as much as those produced by other pharmaceutical companies (Avery, AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/28). The foundation is calling on GSK to reduce the prices of its brand-name antiretroviral drugs so that such drugs would cost only $500 per patient per year. "Glaxo's actions have put it outside the bounds of corporate responsibility. ... [W]hen a company like GSK, which has made billions on AIDS, will not extend even a modest amount of help to the 8,400 people per day who are dying of AIDS, it is unconscionable," AHF President Michael Weinstein said (AHF release, 5/21). AHF, one of the largest providers of specialized care for HIV patients in the United States, hopes that barring sales representatives from its doctors' offices will "block the main channel the company uses to inform doctors directly about new products," the AP/Contra Costa Times reports.
Although GSK officials "acknowledge[d]" that some generic antiretroviral drugs are available in developing nations at half the price of "comparable" GSK medicines, the company states that it "makes no profits" on the sale of drugs in such countries (AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/28). GSK announced in March that it would sell its antiretroviral drugs at cost in poor countries (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/4). GSK also stated that it has cut the prices of its drugs by "as much as 90%" in some developing countries. GSK spokesperson Nancy Pekarek said that drug makers "can't just give [drugs] away" because the sales of medicines help cover manufacturing costs. AHF also criticized GSK for "failing to make any major charitable donation to help people with AIDS in the developing world," but Pekarek said that between 1992 and 2001 GSK donated $55 million to organizations that provide education, care and support to AIDS patients in 50 developing countries (AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/28).