Clinton strikes deal for cheaper Aids drugs and fast HIV tests

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January 13, 2006

President Clinton's Foundation has struck a deal to bring down the price of second-line Aids drugs, needed to keep people alive once resistance to the medicines now being rolled out in Africa has developed, and rapid HIV tests.
The foundation has helped drive down the price of the basic three-drug cocktail that is now keeping more than a million people in Africa well.

Five million people with HIV/Aids in developing countries are thought to be in urgent need of treatment.

But the health of those now on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) will rapidly fail if the virus becomes resistant to the basic cocktail - as has happened in Europe and the United States. First-line drug combinations now cost well under $200 (£114) per year per patient, but the second-line drugs can cost 10 times more.
Announcing the deal yesterday, Mr Clinton said two drugs would come down in price - efavirenz to $240 per patient per year from $367, and abacavir to $427 from as much as $705.

The drugs will be manufactured by the generic companies Cipla, Ranbaxy and Aspen. The prices would come down further, he said. Unless cheap second-line drugs were available, "all this will have been for naught", he said.

Ninety per cent of those with HIV in Africa are not aware of the fact that they are infected. There were 3m new infections last year. Rapid tests, which take just a spot of blood and are read in 20 minutes, are vital, Mr Clinton said. The cost will drop about 50%, down to between 49c and 65c a test.
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