Former president Bill Clinton and the William J. Clinton Foundation, in partnership with Geneva-based UNITAID, have announced new agreements with generic drug manufacturers Cipla and Matrix that significantly lower the price of AIDS treatment for second-line anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).
The new agreements will lower the price for sixteen formulations of ARVs, which will be made available to sixty-six developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean through the Clinton Foundation's Procurement Consortium. The price reductions were made possible by UNITAID, the international drug purchase facility established in 2006 by France, Brazil, Chile, Norway, and the United Kingdom, which will provide the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI) with more than $100 million to buy second-line medicines for twenty-seven countries through 2008. Second-line treatment is required in patients who develop resistance to first-line treatment and currently costs ten times the price of first-line therapy. It is estimated that nearly half a million patients will require these drugs by 2010.
The former president also announced a reduced price for the "next generation" first-line treatment, a once-daily pill that combines the drugs tenofovir, lamivudine, and efavirenz. The equivalent product in the United States launched in July 2006 and is widely perceived as a gold-standard treatment that offers greater convenience, fewer side effects, and improved treatment outcomes in comparison to the regimen most commonly used in developing countries. CHAI has agreed to use UNITAID funds to purchase reduced-priced medicines, guaranteeing purchase volumes. Additional suppliers selected to participate in the program for 2007 include Abbott, Aurobindo, Bristol Myers Squibb, Gilead Sciences, Ranbaxy, and Aspen Pharmacare and IDS Group. CHAI will facilitate a similar competitive bidding process and supplier selection for the 2008 portion of the program, and expects to announce further price reductions by the end of the year.
"Seven million people in the developing world are in need of treatment for HIV/AIDS," said Clinton. "We are trying to meet that need with the best medicine available today, and at prices that low and middle income countries can afford. I applaud Cipla and Matrix for their commitment to lower the cost of new drugs at the forefront of the fight against AIDS, and I thank UNITAID for the funds that have enabled us to make these drugs widely available."