Abuja, Nigeria, December 8, 2005
Newer AIDS drugs and formulations of
existing drugs are urgently needed in Africa but are not available because
brand name companies are choosing not to sell them and there are no generic
versions, according to the international medical humanitarian organization
Doctors Without Borders/MÃ©decins Sans FrontiÃ¨res (MSF ).
At the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections
in Africa (ICASA) in Abuja, Nigeria, the World Health Organization (WHO)
laid out new HIV/AIDS treatment guidelines, which included several drugs
that are not available in Africa.
One example is the antiretroviral (ARV ) medicine lopinavir/ritonavir,
marketed by the US pharmaceutical firm Abbott as Kaletra. Abbott recently
launched a new formulation of the drug, which unlike the old one, does not
require refrigeration. Although this new version would be very useful in
most African settings, it is not available on the continent.
’To date Abbott has not communicated any plans to market this new drug here
or in other countries in Africa,’ said Philomena Orji, an MSF pharmacist in
Nigeria. ’Considering the hot temperatures and constant blackouts in
Lagos, this new formulation could really make a critical difference.’
The new WHO guidelines also add tenofovir to the list of recommended drugs.
Tenofovir has significantly fewer side effects than some older treatments,
but it too is not available in Africa. Gilead, the company that markets the
drug, claims that it is available at a discounted price in 98 countries.
According to the WHO, though, the company has only managed to register the
drug in six developing countries. Although Gilead first announced a lower
price for some developing countries in April 2003, in South Africa, the
registration process was not properly submitted until September 2005.
Price remains a huge challenge. In South Africa, MSF pays $194 per patient
per year for standard first-line therapy. However, with side effects and
the natural development of drug resistance, many patients eventually need
to change to a newer, second-line treatment, which is eight times more
expensive, at $1,661 per patient per year.
MSF ’s project in Khayelitsha, South Africa, is an indicator of future
trends elsewhere in Africa. Seventeen percent of patients that have been on
treatment for four years require second-line treatment. ’Khayelitsha is a
window into the future of AIDS treatment,’ explains Dr. Eric Goemaere, head
of mission for MSF in South Africa. ’If we don’t get access to these newer
drugs at reasonable prices, the result could be catastrophic for Africa.
Patients whose lives had been saved by first-line treatment will be
abandoned the moment they need second-line drugs. We need more affordable
drugs produced by more companies.’
This week, access to affordable sources of new medicines was further
restricted by a World Trade Organization decision to establish complex
procedures for exporting generic versions of patented drugs.
MSF currently provides ARV treatment to over 57,000 people living with
HIV/AIDS in 29 countries. In Nigeria, MSF is treating more than 950
patients with ARVs in a comprehensive care clinic in Lagos.
For more information contact Kevin Phelan at (212) 655-3763
Rachel M. Cohen
U.S. Director, Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF )
333 Seventh Avenue, 2nd Floor * New York, NY * 10001-5004 * USA
Tel : +1-212-655-3762
Mobile : +1-917-331-9077
Fax : +1-212-679-7016
E-mail : rachel.cohen newyork.msf .org