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AFRO-NETS> Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Thu, 21 Jun 2001



Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Thu, 21 Jun 2001
-----------------------------------------------

* Mogae Discusses Botswana's Efforts to Stem HIV/AIDS Epidemic
* Indian Drugmaker Says It Will Offer World's Lowest Price on Triple-
  Therapy AIDS 'Cocktail'
* NYT Editorial Says South Africa Should Make Efforts To Distribute 
  Antiretrovirals


--
Mogae Discusses Botswana's Efforts to Stem HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Speaking yesterday at the National Press Club, Botswana President 
Festus Mogae admitted he is "scared" for his nation, the world's 
worst HIV-infected country with an infection rate of 36.8% among 
adults aged 15 to 49, the Boston Globe reports. "[W]e are frightened. 
We don't know what will happen," he said. He added, however, that 
Botswanans "intend to survive. That is why we need assistance." Bot-
swana, which had been an "economic and political success story" prior 
to the onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, now finds its survival 
"threatened," the Globe reports. AIDS has "sucked from us our pride 
and our achievements," leaving behind a "national sadness," Mogae 
said. But the nation, seen as a "key battleground" in the fight 
against the disease, has recently taken steps to initiate what it 
hopes will be the first nationwide HIV treatment program in sub-
Saharan Africa. The government hopes to begin dispensing antiretrovi-
ral drugs by the end of the year, assisted by a team of Harvard Uni-
versity experts that includes Harvard AIDS Institute Chair Myron 
"Max" Essex. Funded by a $100 million grant from the Bill & Melinda 
Gates Foundation, the program will also include initiatives to stop 
vertical transmission, start HIV vaccine trials and expand a labora-
tory. Debswana Diamond, Botswana's largest employer, also has an-
nounced it will provide treatment for its HIV-positive employees. 
However, Mogae worries that these efforts may not be "fast enough or 
reach enough people." Of an estimated 300,000 infected people in the 
country, only about 30,000 know their status. "We are determined, but 
our national mood is sad, very sad," he said (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 
6/21).


--
Indian Drugmaker Says It Will Offer World's Lowest Price on Triple-
Therapy AIDS 'Cocktail'

Indian drugmaker Aurobindo Pharma announced yesterday that it will 
offer a triple-therapy drug "cocktail" of stavudine, nevirapine and 
lamivudine for $295 per patient per year, "possibly the lowest price 
in the world," Agence France-Presse reports. The offer is open to 
"anyone either in the private market or government agencies or chari-
ties," P.V. Ramprasad Reddy, Aurobindo's managing director, said, 
adding that the company is selling the drug "at an almost break-even 
price" as a "service to humanity and not a profit-making exercise." 
The company is in the process of registering the drugs in South Af-
rica, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Brazil and has already received approval 
from South African officials for drug-production facilities, Reddy 
said. Although Aurobindo only began to manufacture AIDS drugs three 
months ago, the company is prepared to offer the reduced prices be-
cause it makes all of the drugs' raw ingredients. "We are very strong 
in the raw material technology and make our profits in producing bulk 
drugs," Reddy said. Rival Indian drugmaker Cipla "shook" the pharma-
ceutical industry in February by offering the same triple-combination 
for $350 per patient per year compared to the U.S. price of $10,000 
to $12,000 per patient per year. The patents on the three drugs are 
held by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boehringer Ingelheim and GlaxoSmith-
Kline respectively. Indian patent law only protects the process by 
which a drug is formulated and not the final product itself, allowing 
companies to produce generic forms of drugs by slightly altering the 
process. Reddy said he "expect[s]" a WHO team to study Aurobindo's 
proposal and inspect its facilities soon (Agence France-Presse, 
6/20).


--
NYT Editorial Says South Africa Should Make Efforts To Distribute An-
tiretrovirals

It is "dismaying" that the South African government is "still not 
planning" to distribute antiretrovirals, despite the withdrawal of 
the pharmaceutical industry's lawsuit against its Medicines and Re-
lated Substances Control Act, a New York Times editorial states. The 
editorial states that "South Africa's government has an ignoble his-
tory of skepticism about treating AIDS," citing South African Presi-
dent Thabo Mbeki's questioning of the causal link between HIV and 
AIDS as an example. The editorial also notes that even discounted an-
tiretrovirals are still too costly for South Africa. "But reserva-
tions about treating AIDS cannot explain why South Africa is also 
stalling on simple and cheap programs to cut mother-to-child trans-
mission," the editorial says, adding, "The cabinet has withheld ap-
proval, preferring to study the programs endlessly." Although the di-
rector of South Africa's AIDS programs recently allowed the provinces 
to implement treatments aimed at curbing vertical transmission, the 
editorial states that "[t]his is welcome, but is far less than the 
enthusiastic embrace needed to encourage widespread use of mother-to-
child programs." The editorial concludes, "Antiretrovirals are being 
used successfully in African nations less developed than South Africa 
to extend the life and health of AIDS patients. Their use in South 
Africa is not only a moral imperative, it is a practical necessity" 
(New York Times, 6/21).

--
The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, 
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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