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AFRO-NETS> Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Thu, 17 May 2001

Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Thu, 17 May 2001

* South African Generic Drug Manufacturer Requests Permission to Pro-
  duce Patented AIDS Drugs
* 'NewsHour' Continues Examination of AIDS in Africa, Addresses Dis-
  tribution of Antiretroviral Drugs in Botswana
* Bianca Jagger Works to Fight 'Human Catastrophe' of AIDS in Africa
* South African Department of Health Has Not 'Killed' Possibility of
  AIDS Drug Provision, Letter Says

South African Generic Drug Manufacturer Requests Permission to Pro-
duce Patented AIDS Drugs

Aspen Pharmacare, the largest generic drug producer in South Africa, 
announced yesterday that it would "seek permission" from five other 
companies to manufacture patented AIDS medications, the AP / Phila-
delphia Inquirer reports. Aspen has already obtained the raw materi-
als to produce the drugs but will not begin the process unless the 
patent holders approve. The AP/Inquirer reports that Aspen has asked 
Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boehringer Ingelheim, Roche, Merck and GlaxoS-
mithKline for permission to produce their AIDS medications. However, 
some of the "major" companies have "voiced reservations" about allow-
ing generic production, saying their factories enable them to produce 
drugs less expensively than small local companies. Vikash Salig, As-
pen's new business development director, said that the company has 
two plants in South Africa, exports drugs to 30 countries and has the 
capability to produce "enough drugs" to treat millions of patients. 
Robert Lefebvre, senior director for project access at Bristol-Myers, 
said the company is open to "negotiating licensing agreements." He 
added that two of its AIDS drugs may already be produced generically, 
as Videx does not have a patent and the firm does not plan on enforc-
ing its patent on Zerit. He added, "We are not going to let the pat-
ent stand in the way of making the medication accessible or afford-
able" (Cohen, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/17).

'NewsHour' Continues Examination of AIDS in Africa, Addresses Distri-
bution of Antiretroviral Drugs in Botswana

In the third episode of a "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" four-part series 
on AIDS in Africa, reporter Elizabeth Farnsworth describes the Bot-
swana government's efforts to distribute antiretroviral drugs to its 
people. In March, Botswana President Festus Mogae announced that the 
government would try to provide anti-HIV drugs to all who need them, 
regardless of their ability to pay. He also created a National AIDS 
Council, a multi-sectoral national committee that is working to in-
stall similar committees in each town and suburb. In addition, mining 
giant Debswana, owned in part by the government, announced it would 
subsidize 90% of patient costs for employees living with HIV. Farns-
worth explained that the disease has become a "growing threat" in the 
country's largest diamond mine, as the mine is "highly mechanized and 
dependent on skilled labor." But with 30% of the workforce HIV-
positive, the company may lose many of its skilled laborers to the 
disease. Dr. Kobus Erasmus explained, "We're going to be in trouble 
in this mine if we don't treat them. ... We're the first company 
that's going to treat HIV patients on a large scale." 

Help from Pharmaceutical Firms

National and corporate efforts to treat Botswanans have been assisted 
by drug discount offers from large multinational pharmaceutical firms 
like Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck. Merck and the Bill and Melinda 
Gates Foundation have begun a $100 million project to distribute the 
drugs widely in Botswana. The Harvard AIDS Institute has also part-
nered with the Botswana government to research HIV type C at the pub-
lic hospital in Gabarone and is providing clinical care to patients 
with HIV/AIDS. The program's "goal is to help develop models for pro-
viding antiretrovirals safely." President Mogae said, "The health 
budget is growing by leaps and bounds. ... It's maybe three or four 
times what it was three years ago, and we were under no delusion that 
in another three years, it will be double or triple what it is today. 
Without help, we couldn't possibly manage." But Dr. Banu Khan of the 
National AIDS Coordinating Agency noted, "It's not just the price of 
the drugs. It's the overall package, the testing for viral load, for 
the CD4 count ... these are costly and also the training of health 
care workers to prescribe these drugs." Further, Khan added that "if 
you don't correctly administer the drugs in the right combination, 
and you don't counsel people to take it correctly and for a long 
time, then the virus is able to develop resistance and the drugs are 
not that effective." A "high tech laboratory" to analyze patient re-
sponse and adherence to the drugs is being built in Gabarone with 
funding from the government, Harvard and Bristol-Myers Squibb, but 
Farnsworth noted that "more facilities will be necessary" (Farns-
worth, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 5/16). To read the full tran-
script of the report, click here. To listen to the segment in Real-
Audio, click here. Note: You must have RealPlayer to listen to this 

Bianca Jagger Works to Fight 'Human Catastrophe' of AIDS in Africa

In a London Independent profile yesterday, Bianca Jagger, former wife 
of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, answered the public's questions about 
her involvement with charity group Christian Aid's work with AIDS in 
Africa, saying, "I realized that I could not close my eyes, look the 
other way, and pretend [the epidemic] was not happening. I want to 
draw attention to the human catastrophe that is ravaging the sub-
Saharan region of Africa." She added her concern that "an entire gen-
eration of orphans is growing up without role models" and said, "It's 
no coincidence that it is in the poorest countries in Africa where 
the AIDS epidemic has its strongest grip. Many African governments 
are no longer able to provide basic health care." She called the 
failure of other countries to help fight AIDS in Africa "a moral out-
rage," saying, "The industrialized nations must help rebuild the 
health care and education systems, which must become free of charge 
for those who cannot afford it." Jagger said of Christian Aid, "It 
has grass-roots, community-led care programs, and I believe this is 
the most effective way of getting aid to those who need it. ... 
Christian Aid is calling [for] governments of the industrialized na-
tions to increase the amount they give in overseas aid. Only with a 
massive concerted effort can we hope to avert the decimation of a 
continent" (Independent, 5/16).

South African Department of Health Has Not 'Killed' Possibility of 
AIDS Drug Provision, Letter Says

"It is incorrect to state [as a May 14 Guardian headline does] that 
the South African government has 'killed' the possibility of ever 
providing antiretroviral drugs for AIDS," Jo-Anne Collinge of the 
South African Department of Health writes in the Guardian. "The text 
makes it clear that, at present, South Africa's minister of health, 
Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, believes there are other more pressing 
priorities in AIDS care that are likely to claim the limited health 
budget," she says. Due to the increasing threat of drug resistance, 
the "questions of safety and efficacy are acute in respect of anti-
retroviral therapy," she writes, concluding, "The Department of 
Health is responsible for ensuring that our interventions are safe, 
effective and sustainable. Hence the minister's emphasis on the 
training of health professionals and adequate health infrastructure" 
(Collinge, Guardian, 5/16).

The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for, 
a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, by National 
Journal Group Inc. c 2001 by National Journal Group Inc. and Kaiser 
Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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