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[e-drug] MSF: WHO supports use of twice-a-day pill for AIDS

E-drug: MSF: WHO supports use of twice-a-day pill for AIDS
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WHO supports use of twice-a-day pill for AIDS

More ambition needed to bring prices down

Geneva, 1 December 2003 - Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)
welcome the ambitious objectives unveiled by the World Health
Organisation today to get three million people with AIDS on treatment
by 2005. WHO has immediately moved closer to meeting this target
by announcing that a quality-assured twice-a-day pill is available to
treat AIDS.

Getting AIDS medicines to the millions who need it requires treatment
models that are much better adapted to resource-poor settings.
"Reducing the number of pills that patients have to take makes
treatment much simpler and more affordable" says Dr Morten
Rostrup, President of the International Council of MSF.

The twice-a-day pill, which combines 3 different medicines, is made
by different generics companies. Today, Cipla is offering this for $US
140 to a number of organisations, including MSF. Quality has been
assured by the WHO pre-qualification process. The vast majority of
the 9,000 patients currently treated by MSF's AIDS programmes will
benefit from the latest price reduction.

However, in their plan to fight AIDS, WHO's target price for treatment
is $US 400 for 2004. "WHO's drug price targets lack ambition and do
not reflect prices that are currently available. Today, drug prices have
fallen by another 50%. WHO should encourage this trend in order
that universal access to AIDS treatment become a reality," says Dr
Rostrup.

To date the brand pharmaceutical companies have not co-operated to
combine their medicines into a single pill; only generics companies
offer these products. Governments must therefore make use of the
safeguards in their patent laws to overcome patent barriers to
accessing these simple and affordable medicines.

"Every time drug prices comes down, more people can afford
treatment," said Dr Rostrup. "But for the poorest, no price will be
affordable: governments of both developing and developed countries
must meet these costs. This means more international funding to
fight AIDS."

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