Mining Firm Anglo American and Drug Maker Cipla In Talks to Provide Antiretroviral Medicines to Anglo Employees
Mining conglomerate Anglo American is negotiating with Indian drug maker Cipla Ltd. to purchase generic versions of antiretroviral drugs for Anglo employees, Reuters reports. Anglo American announced on Aug. 6 that it would supply antiretroviral drugs to its HIV-positive employees in Southern Africa who do not already qualify for treatment under medical aid programs. Nearly 25% of the company's employees are HIV-positive, although only 2.5% are believed to need "immediate treatment." Brian Brink, a senior vice president for Anglo American, said that the talks with Cipla will focus on what drugs Cipla can provide, the quality and supply of the drugs and the price of the medicines. Cipla manufactures generic versions of several patented antiretroviral drugs, and the company "grabbed" international attention last year when it offered to supply developing nations with triple-drug antiretroviral therapy at a cost of $350 per patient per year -- one thirtieth of the price of a regimen of brand-name drugs. Cipla Chair Yusuf Hamied said Cipla would offer to supply a three-drug regimen consisting of lamivudine, stavudine and nevirapine to Anglo at a price of $350 per patient per year.
Hamied said that before supplying the drugs the company may have to examine surrounding patent issues. A generic version of lamivudine is the only of Cipla's generic drugs registered in South Africa, and Hamied said it is not clear whether he would need to obtain licenses from brand-name drug manufacturers in order to market generic versions of other drugs in South Africa. "We need some clarity from the South African government about whether we can supply these drugs when they are under patent," Hamied said (Shankar, Reuters, 8/19). In April 2001, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of South Africa and 39 pharmaceutical companies agreed to drop their lawsuit against the South African government over a law that would allow the country to import and manufacture cheaper generic AIDS drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/19/01). Hamied said it is not clear whether drug makers' patents are "still valid" following the companies' decision to withdraw the suit (Reuters, 8/19).