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[e-drug] Central Americans Petition Merck to lower ARV prices

E-drug: Central Americans Petition Merck to lower ARV prices
For immediate release...
Central Americans Petition Merck to lower ARV prices

San José, Costa Rica....
25  March, 2001

A coalition of more than 40 Latin American Non-governmental Organizations
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  that  "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 $600 and $500 per
year respectively for countries "in the developing 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," adding that "the per
capita  yearly income  in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras remains under
$1500 per person per year. How is a person, ill with AIDS, supposed to be
able to afford your product, priced at $300 per month on a total income that
is less than $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 cannot 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.' Central America is part of the developing world."
he added.

For More Information, Contact...
Richard Stern, Ph.D.
Tel/Fax 506-234-2411
Send mail for the `E-Drug' conference to `e-drug@usa.healthnet.org'.
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For additional assistance, send mail to:  `owner-e-drug@usa.healthnet.org'.

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