The U.S. government pays more than twice as much for HIV antiretroviral drugs for use in international AIDS efforts than do other global AIDS organizations, according to a draft report from the Government Accountability Office, The Wall Street Journal reports. Because the Bush administration will not approve the purchase of generic anti-HIV drugs through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which focuses on HIV prevention and treatment in 15 developing nations, the government is paying more than twice as much for anti-HIV medications for poor nations. AIDS programs funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and by the World Bank are purchasing antiretroviral drugs at less than half the price than PEPFAR, according to the report.
The lowest price available to PEPFAR for a common antiretroviral regimen that contains Viramune, Epivir, and Zerit is $562 per person annually. A similar combination of generic versions of the drugs offered in a single pill is available to other AIDS programs at $215 per person per year. The U.S. government pays about $450 per person per year for Boehringer Ingelheim's nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor Viramune, but generic versions are available that cost as little as $120 per person per year. The government is paying the same price as other international AIDS groups on only a few anti-HIV drugs, according to the report.
Mark Dybul, chief medical officer for the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, which handles the PEPFAR program, says there are cheaper anti-HIV drugs currently available, but notes that it has not been established whether the drugs are safe and that they violate U.S. patent laws. PEPFAR officials say they will purchase generic anti-HIV drugs for the program only after they've received safety and efficacy approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. India-based Ranbaxy Laboratories, which makes several generic anti-HIV mentions, applied last week for FDA approval of one anti-HIV drug and plans to submit applications for 12 more early next year. South African generic drug firm Aspen Pharmacare says it also plans to file for FDA approval of its generic HIV antiretroviral medications.