Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Lack of Demand Forcing Indian Pharmaceutical Companies To Shift Production From Antiretrovirals to Other Drugs
Cipla, an Indian generic drug company that "rocked the pharma world in February 2001" by offering developing countries a combination antiretroviral therapy for less than $1 a day, is shifting to the production of other types of drugs because of a lack of demand for antiretrovirals, Reuters reports. Aurobindo Pharma, Hetero Drugs and Ranbaxy Laboratories -- which along with Cipla is on the World Health Organization's list of pre-qualified antiretroviral drug providers -- are all experiencing a similar lack of demand, according to Reuters. The lack of demand is due to governments upholding the patent rights of international pharmaceutical companies and because the governments of many developing countries, where the drugs are most needed, do not have the funds to pay for the drugs, according to Reuters. Many "badly affected countries" have drug budgets of less than $2 per person per year, so the governments "simply do not have enough funds" to supply the medications to their people, Hans Hogerzeil, coordinator of medicines policy for WHO's department of essential medicines, said. Generic drug production is allowed in India as long as the companies utilize different manufacturing processes (Arackaparambil, Reuters, 3/18). A World Trade Organization deal that would have relaxed these international patent laws in order to allow developing nations to purchase low-cost antiretrovirals and other drugs to fight public health epidemics has been stalled since late last year (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/18). "Indian pharma companies are well placed to manufacture most of the antiretrovirals available in the international markets," Lanka Srinivas, director of Aurobindo, said, adding, "But patents from originators are not allowing the supplies of generic anti-AIDS drugs in some highly HIV-prone countries." Y.K. Hamied, chair of Cipla, said, "What we are saying is that unless the governments take part and there is guaranteed predictability (of demand), there is no incentive to produce and supply these drugs" (Reuters, 3/18).
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