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GlaxoSmithKline Freezes Prices of Its Antiretroviral Medicines in United States
GlaxoSmithKline PLC, the world's second-largest drug maker, announced yesterday it will freeze wholesale prices on all of its HIV/AIDS drugs in the United States until January 2004, the AP/Nando Times reports. GSK officials said that the company is implementing the price freeze to address funding shortfalls in AIDS drug assistance programs across the country. ADAPs in 10 states have begun limiting drug access, started waiting lists or capped enrollment due to budget shortages. The officials cited a Kaiser Family Foundation-sponsored issue brief that was released in April. The federally funded and state-run programs provide HIV and AIDS drugs to uninsured or underinsured people. The pricing freeze covers all of the company's AIDS drugs, including Retrovir, Epivir and Combivir, GSK's most popular antiretroviral drugs, which each cost hundreds of dollars a month (Loviglio, AP/Nando Times, 6/21). "It's a small step, but it helps," GSK Chief Executive
Jean-Pierre Garnier said, adding that he hoped other drug makers would follow suit. Most drug companies raise their prices on HIV/AIDS drugs by approximately 5% each year, the
New York Times reports. GSK's decision follows a similar move by fellow drug maker Pfizer, which recently announced it would freeze for two years the prices of its antiretroviral drugs Viracept and Rescriptor (Abelson, New York Times, 6/21). GSK Vice President Peter Hare said, "We will do our part with this short-term price freeze, and in the long term we hope to do even more in the fight against HIV/AIDS through innovative discoveries and development of newer and better anti-HIV/AIDS medicine." Some analysts said that GSK's announcement was a "good move" for the company, which has faced criticism from some lawmakers and AIDS advocates for its drug pricing policies. "The pharmaceutical industry has been taking it on the chin, so being more philanthropic and patient-oriented will help improve their public relations face. ... What they're giving up in price increases is a down payment on goodwill," Bob Kirby, a senior pharmaceutical analyst at St. Louis-based investment company Edward Jones, said (AP/Nando Times, 6/21).
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