Gilead To Sell Its Antiretroviral Drug Viread to 68 Developing Countries ‘At Cost’
Foster City, Calif.-based Gilead Sciences is scheduled to announce today that it will sell its antiretroviral drug Viread "at cost" -- approximately one tenth of its retail price -- to 68 developing countries, the Los Angeles Times reports (White, Los Angeles Times, 4/4). The company announced in December 2002 that it would offer Viread, known generically as tenofovir, at cost to all African nations and 15 other low-income countries. The access program will allow qualified programs to purchase the drug at the lower price. 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 their "ability to sustain an effective treatment program, adequately prescribe and monitor patients and store and use the drug appropriately" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/18/02). The company said that it will offer Viread for $1.30 a day, or $475 per person per year, which it said covers only the cost of manufacturing the drug and oversight of the distribution program. The drug costs approximately $4,300 per person per year in the United States, the Wall Street Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 4/4).
Securing Additional Funding
Gilead also said it will change the color of pills manufactured for the program to try to prevent the drug from being "diverted to more affluent nations" through drug resale, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 4/4). Gilead CEO John Martin said, "The Gilead Access Program was created in consultation with experts and advocates, with the objective of making Viread available where the need is greatest and in a way that best addresses the treatment landscape in the developing world" (Gilead release, 4/4). He added, "Based on its efficacy, positive resistance and side-effect profile, and once-daily dosing, we believe that Viread will be a particularly important treatment option for physicians and patients in these regions" (Tansey, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/4). Gilead CFO John Milligan said that the price is still "very prohibitive for less developed nations, so we've been working with groups to help secure funding for these countries. We're trying to do our part" (Jacobs, San Jose Mercury News, 4/4). He added that the Bush administration has said that they will support funding such efforts, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The William J. Clinton Foundation and the World Health Organization are currently trying to establish funding for the program, according to Milligan (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/4).
AIDS advocates lauded the announcement, the Times reports. Charles Farthing, chief of medicine for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said, "[Viread] is a phenomenally good drug that will make treatment in the Third World easier because it is potent and relatively free of side effects" (Los Angeles Times, 4/4). Mark Harrington, executive director of the Treatment Action Group, said, "They are a small biotech company, and they came out faster with an offer than the large drug companies did when they got drugs approved, so they have to be praised" (San Jose Mercury News, 4/4).