Boehringer Ingelheim Grants South African Generic Drug Company License to Produce Nevirapine
The South African subsidiary of German pharmaceutical maker Boehringer Ingelheim yesterday announced that it has granted Aspen Pharmacare, a South African generic drug maker, a "voluntary license" to produce, distribute and sell the antiretroviral drug nevirapine, the South African Press Association reports. Aspen will manufacture the drug locally, and government institutions will distribute the drug to HIV-positive South Africans. Aspen will also be allowed to export the drug to Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Aspen already has the license to produce generic versions of lamivudine and zidovudine (South African Press Association, 10/14). Aspen CEO Stephen Saad said that the generic version of nevirapine, which will likely sell for approximately $1 per daily dose, will probably be available in a year, following the drug's approval by the Medicines Control Council.
TAC Says Move 'Not Enough'
AIDS advocates "cautious[ly] welcome[d]" the drug firm's decision, saying that the move was "a first step" toward providing affordable HIV/AIDS medications in South Africa. The Treatment Action Campaign said Boehringer's action "did not go far enough" because the deal will now give Aspen a monopoly on the generic version of the drug and the company is not likely to "slash prices" for the drug. "Licenses must be non-exclusive to allow for competition. We want the cheapest drugs available and unless Boehringer is prepared to give out more licenses, we say it is not enough," TAC Chair Zackie Achmat said, adding that $1 per day was still too expensive for many South Africans (Chege, Reuters, 10/15). TAC and the Congress of South African Trade Unions in September filed a complaint with the South African Competition Commission, an independent body that monitors fair market competition, in an attempt to force Boehringer Ingelheim and GlaxoSmithKline to further reduce the prices of their antiretroviral drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/20).