MSF Calls on Gilead To Increase Access to Reduced-Cost Viread
The international aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres on Tuesday said Foster City, Calif.-based Gilead Sciences has not met its pledge to provide its antiretroviral drug Viread at reduced costs to programs in developing countries, the AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports (Elias, AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 2/7). The company in December 2002 announced that it would offer Viread, known generically as tenofovir, at-cost to all African nations and 15 other developing countries under its Gilead Access Program. The initiative allows qualified programs to purchase the drug at a lower price (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/18/05). Gilead later expanded the program to 97 developing countries, and in August 2005 the company announced it would lower the prices of Viread and its antiretroviral Truvada by 31% and 12%, respectively, for the access program. The company said the not-for-profit price of a 30-day supply is $17 for Viread and $26.25 for Truvada (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/31/05). According to MSF, Viread currently is available in six countries -- the Bahamas, Gambia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. The drug also is approved for use in Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia and Ghana, Gilead spokesperson Amy Flood said. She added that the company has submitted applications for the drug to be approved in 48 countries. "The process for regulatory approval has proven to be more time-consuming than we anticipated," Flood said, adding, "In some countries, our application has been pending for more than two years" (Bloomberg/Inside Bay Area.com, 2/8). However, Alexandra Calmy an HIV/AIDS specialist for MSF's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, in a release said, "[O]ther than issuing press releases and empty promises, [Gilead] has done little to ensure that the medicine is available to those who need it most in developing countries." According to MSF, Gilead did not complete its application to distribute Viread in South Africa until November 2005, almost three years after it originally announced the program (MSF release, 2/7). Flood said the program to date has provided reduced-cost antiretrovirals to about 20,000 HIV-positive people, adding, "This is a commitment that Gilead takes very seriously" (AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 2/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.