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AFRO-NETS> Central Americans Petition Merck to lower ARV prices

Central Americans Petition Merck to lower ARV prices

San Jose, Costa Rica
25 March, 2001

A coalition of more than 40 Latin American Non-governmental Organiza-
tions and nearly 80 individuals have sent a letter to Merck and Co. 
in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, urging the pharmaceutical company 
to offer price reductions in Central America similar to those which 
have been offered to African nations. 

The letter directed to Merck CEO Raymond Gilmartin and members of the 
company's Board of Directors reminds company officials "If you have 
been ill, you have probably always been in the privileged position of 
receiving the medical care that you needed."

On March 7th of this year, Merck announced it was lowering the prices 
of its two anti-retroviral medications, Stockrin and Crixivan to US$ 
600 and US$ 500 per year respectively for countries "in the develop-
ing world" Three weeks later, Merck's own Central American product 
representatives acknowledge that the reduced price offer has not been 
extended to Central American nations. 

The letter points out to company officials that "17,000 Central 
Americans currently urgently need anti-retroviral medications," add-
ing that "the per capita yearly income in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and 
Honduras remains under US$ 1,500 per person per year. How is a per-
son, ill with AIDS, supposed to be able to afford your product, 
priced at US$ 300 per month on a total income that is less than US$ 
200 per month?" 

"Over the past year, we have heard lots of major announcements about 
discounts of Anti-retroviral medications offered by multi-national 
companies. These announcements have changed nothing for most poor 
people who have AIDS. 90 percent of Central Americans with AIDS can-
not afford the medications they need. When are we going to start to 
get from public relations announcements to actual delivery of pills 
to people who need them? " asked Richard Stern, one of the petition's 
organizers who is based in Costa Rica. "The Merck announcement 
clearly referred to reducing prices in the 'developing world.' Cen-
tral America is part of the developing world" he added.

For more information contact:
Richard Stern, Ph.D.
Tel/Fax: +506-234-2411

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