Eli Lilly Forms Partnership To Help Developing Countries Produce Generic TB Drugs To Combat AIDS, TB EpidemicsEli Lilly today plans to announce a four-year partnership with WHO, CDC, HHS, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Harvard University and Purdue University to transfer $70 million in technology to help companies in China, India, South Africa and Russia produce and sell their own supplies of two older Lilly antibiotics to combat tuberculosis, the Wall Street Journal reports (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 6/5). All of the countries are "threatened by dual epidemics of AIDS and TB," according to USA Today (Sternberg, USA Today, 6/5). The TB bacterium is present in about 33% of the world's population, but people with HIV are 30 times more likely to develop active TB than HIV-negative individuals because of their weakened immune systems. Of the 8.2 million new TB cases in 2000, at least 9% were among HIV-positive people (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/9/2002). As part of the partnership, Lilly will transfer the rights to generic drug companies to produce capreomycin and cycloserine, two drugs used to treat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. In addition, the company will donate its manufacturing technology to Shasun Chemicals & Drugs Ltd. in India, Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. in China, New Heights in South Africa and a company in Russia that has yet to be determined. In exchange, the companies must agree to limit the price of the generics to 20% over cost (Wall Street Journal, 6/5). Lilly has also awarded Harvard a one-year, $1 million grant to train Russian doctors on how to administer the drugs (USA Today, 6/5). Working under a similar grant, scientists at Purdue will be responsible for training the foreign companies to produce the drugs under the "strict" manufacturing guidelines of the FDA, the Journal reports.
The partnership is the result of four years of lobbying by Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health and a professor in the Program in Infectious Disease and Social Change in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Jim Kim, director of the the Harvard infectious disease and social change program and a co-founder and trustee of Partners in Health. Farmer and Kim said that similar joint ventures "may provide the best route to affordable access to drugs," according to the Journal. "If (Lilly) can show other big pharma companies how to be better corporate citizens, then we'd have a better shot at taking on the plagues of the poor," Farmer said (Wall Street Journal, 6/5). HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who is expected to announce the partnership in Geneva today at a board meeting for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said, "If we can get drugs into these countries with drug-resistant TB, we'll be able to control epidemics that are growing at an alarming rate" (USA Today, 6/5).