GSK Grants Fifth Voluntary License to Cipla To Make, Sell Generic Antiretroviral Drugs in South Africa
U.K.-based pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline -- the world's largest distributor of antiretroviral drugs -- on Tuesday announced it has granted a voluntary license to a South African unit of the Indian drug firm Cipla to make and sell in South Africa generic forms of some of its antiretroviral drugs, Reuters reports. The license for the subsidiary Cipla Medpro -- the third largest generic drug company in South Africa -- allows the company to manufacture, import and sell GSK's antiretroviral drugs lamivudine and zidovudine, as well as a combination treatment of the two drugs (Reuters, 12/14). Michael Spector, general manager of pharmaceuticals for GSK in South Africa, said, "This announcement amplifies GSK's long-standing and continuing commitment to improve access to medicines in developing countries -- a commitment the company is very proud of and will maintain far into the future." He added, "We are particularly pleased about this license as Cipla has not only tendered to supply ARVs to the [South African] government for its rollout program but has also registered these medicines in South Africa, which should make them available immediately" (I-Net Bridge/Sunday Times, 12/14). The license is the fifth GSK has issued for the manufacture and distribution of generic forms of its drugs in South Africa (Reuters, 12/14). GSK last week granted a voluntary license to Biotech Laboratories -- a subsidiary of Afrika Biopharma -- to supply generic antiretrovirals to both the public and private sectors throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Earlier this year, GSK issued voluntary licenses to South Africa's Thembalami Pharmaceuticals and Aspen Pharmacare to make generic antiretrovirals. Both Feza Pharmaceuticals, also in South Africa, and Cosmos Limited in Kenya also have received voluntary licenses from GSK (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/8).
NetCom SA Reaction
The HIV/AIDS advocacy group Network of AIDS Communities in South Africa said that GSK's deal with Cipla is "too little, too late," according to an AIDS Healthcare Foundation release. "While Cipla can likely bring its generic copies of GSK's drugs to the market much more quickly, we believe that GSK still must atone for it egregious past pricing policies and wrongdoing that severely limited access to AIDS drug therapies for thousands and thousands of South Africans living with -- and dying from -- HIV/AIDS," Swazi Hlubi, executive director of NetCom SA, said. NetCom SA and AHF have filed a complaint with South Africa's Competition Tribunal over GSK's past pricing of antiretrovirals. Hlubi said that the organizations' competition complaint against GSK is ongoing (AHF release, 12/15).