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Wednesday, January 18, 2006 

Poor nations to get cheaper HIV drugs and tests

James Njoroge
16 January 2006
Source: SciDev.Net

The developing world's fight against HIV/AIDS received a double boost last week as pharmaceutical giant Roche and the Clinton Foundation announced separate efforts to increase the availability of drugs and diagnostic tools.

Roche said on Thursday (12 January) that it would provide technical expertise to help companies in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere make 'generic' versions of saquinavir, a drug that stops the HIV virus from replicating.

The move is the first under Roche's new technology transfer programme that is due to begin later this year.

"[We] hope to help as many manufacturers as possible in these hardest hit countries by sharing our knowledge, so that they can learn and benefit from our technology," says William Burns, chief executive officer of Roche's pharmaceuticals division.

Also on Thursday, the US-based Clinton Foundation announced agreements with drug makers that will cut the cost of two other HIV-drugs — efavirenz and abacavir — by more than 30 per cent.

The foundation has also secured agreements from four companies to provide developing countries with HIV tests at half the normal cost.

Together, the Clinton Foundation's deals will benefit 50 developing countries worldwide. They involve companies in China, India, Israel, South Africa and the United States.

"The action of these companies is another important step in the fight against HIV/AIDS," said former US president Bill Clinton, founder of the organisation.

"With more than one million people on treatment [for HIV] in developing countries, we face a growing challenge to keep costs affordable as we reach out to millions more in need."

He encouraged employers and governments in countries with high infection rates to take advantage of the agreement to make anti-retroviral drugs available to as many infected people as possible.

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