Chinese Pharmaceutical Firm Begins Distribution of Generic Antiretroviral Drugs
Chinese drug company Shanghai Desano Biopharmaceutical on Tuesday said it has begun distributing the country's first domestically produced generic antiretroviral combination pill, the AP/Santa Fe New Mexican reports. The pill, which combines didanosine and stavudine, costs about $435 to $560 a year. Zhang Junjie, spokesperson for Desano, said that "hundreds of thousands" of doses of the drugs have arrived in the central province of Henan, which "has been hit by an AIDS epidemic caused by unsafe blood buying," the AP/New Mexican reports (Fackler, AP/Santa Fe New Mexican, 1/28). China's blood trade received a "massive boost" in 1993 when foreign firms began to purchase Chinese blood. The clamor for blood resulted in the rise of "blood heads" -- dealers who pay individuals, many of whom are farmers, for their blood, and then sell the blood to hospitals or blood banks. However, the blood heads often reused collection needles and mixed blood from different patients, which they then reinjected into a patient's veins so he or she could donate again sooner. Chinese health experts have said they believe that one-fifth of all HIV-positive individuals in China contracted the disease through unsafe blood collection practices (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/12/01). Zhang said the drugs were paid for by the central health authorities in Beijing, and Desano will produce enough of the antiretroviral drugs to supply them to 500,000 people each year. The Health Ministry has said that 10 other Chinese drug companies have applied for permission to make generic versions of AIDS-related drugs with expired patents, and some might begin producing them by the end of the year (AP/Santa Fe New Mexican, 1/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.