Clinton Foundation brokers deal to lower drug prices for tots

This, in the NY Times, about Clinton’s efforts to drive down drug prices for ARV therapy for kids. Got to hand it to the ex-Pres, he’s trying to make amends for having done so little as President:

MUMBAI, Nov. 30 — The cost of treating children infected with H.I.V. and AIDS is poised to plummet next year, under a deal announced today between two Indian drugmakers and former President Bill Clinton’s foundation.

Cipla and Ranbaxy Laboratories agreed to make 19 different anti-retroviral drugs designed for children available to 62 developing countries at an average price of $60 a year, which is less than half of the lowest current price, the Clinton Foundation said in a statement. Because not everyone has access to the lowest current price, the plan will actually translate into a four- to six-fold cost reduction for many children, said Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy for H.I.V. and AIDS in Africa.

A $35 million grant from Unitaid, a drug-buying consortium formed in September by France, Brazil, Chile, Norway and the United Kingdom, will be combined with $15 million from the Clinton Foundation to assure the Indian drugmakers a volume of sales high enough to justify the lower prices.

However, there is a worry that the ability for generic firms to make these kinds of contributions may slow as India firms up its intellectual property rights laws:

Indian drug companies were able to produce the special pediatric drugs because they mixed together a customized combination of chemicals invented by Western companies but never patented under India’s once-lax intellectual-property protections. Yet India has recently changed its patent rules, under its World Trade Organization commitments, so as to protect Western innovations.

Thailand, however, has announced it is breaking a patent on an expensive second-line ARV drug (Efavirenz apparently isn’t a second-line drug but a first line drug that replaces nevirapine because of its side effects) because it is encountering drug resistance. Stay tuned. The Center for Global Development has also posted on this, suggesting the Thai government’s action may embolden others.

Health officials in Thailand announced on Wednesday that they would break a patent on the AIDS drug Efavirenz and make generic copies.

Efavirenz is a second-line AIDS treatment, made for those immune to the first generation of AIDS drugs, and it is substantially more expensive than first-line drugs.

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