Gilead Sciences to Sell Antiretroviral Drug at ‘No Profit’ to Some Organizations
Foster City, Calif.-based pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences yesterday announced that it will sell Viread, its antiretroviral drug known generically as tenofovir, at cost to 68 least developed countries, including all African nations and 15 other countries, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. However, the announcement did not specify by how much the price of the drug, which wholesales for about $10 a day in the United States, would be cut. Gilead Chief Executive John Martin said that he thought that the cost of manufacturing and distributing the medicine would dictate a price at or under $3 a day, according to the Chronicle (Abate, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/18). The Viread Access Program, set to start by the second fiscal quarter of 2003, will allow qualified programs to apply to be able to purchase the drug, according to a company press release. Beginning in the first quarter of 2003, treatment programs will be able to apply online, or by mail, fax or e-mail, to purchase Viread at the reduced cost. The company will choose eligible applicants based on "ability to sustain an effective treatment program, adequately prescribe and monitor patients and store and use the drug appropriately" (Gilead release, 12/17).
Chris Collins, director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, said that Gilead's decision to sell Viread at cost sets an example for other pharmaceutical companies. He added, "This is where the pharmaceutical industry should have been long ago ... planning to make a reasonable profit in the richer countries, while offering steeply tiered (discounted) prices in poorer countries." Carl Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said that Gilead's plan shows that the industry understands that "world opinion" is demanding more efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/18). International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care President and CEO Jose Zuniga "congratulate[d]" Gilead on its action, saying, "Achieving universal access to drugs for those in need should be the end to which we collectively aspire." He added, "However, it is equally imperative that they and their industry peers, as well as the global HIV/AIDS care community as a whole, simultaneously increase attention given to the training and infrastructure development programs needed to ensure ethical and effective administration of antiretroviral drugs" (IAPAC release, 12/18). Hannah Kettler, an economist and director of the Institute for Global Health in San Francisco, said that "[i]nternational agencies, foundations and governments have to step up and create buying funds" for the drug, as Gilead cannot "simply give away millions of pills a day," the Chronicle reports. Viread, which has made Gilead profitable, has "excited" physicians and patients because it can be taken once a day and has been demonstrated to be effective against drug-resistant HIV strains (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/18).