The William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation on Tuesday announced an agreement with UNICEF, the World Bank, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria to offer generic HIV antiretroviral drugs to more than 100 developing nations at steeply discounted prices. The agreement extends a deal reached last year between the groups to offer the cheap generic drugs to 16 poor countries. A triple-drug generic regimen will be provided to the developing nations by Ranbaxy Laboratories, Cipla, Matrix Laboratories, and Hetero Drugs--all of India--and Aspen Pharmacare in South Africa at a cost as low as $140 per person per year. The discounted generic versions of patented brand-name drugs will be available to any nation that receives aid from the World Bank, UNICEF, or the global fund. The price of the generic anti-HIV drugs is one third to one half the cost of the most steeply discounted brand-name drug regimen available in developing nations.
"With these agreements, we are one step closer to making sure future generations can live without the scourge of AIDS," Clinton said in a statement. "We are hopeful that developing countries and those who support them in the fight against AIDS will take full advantage of this agreement and act quickly to do all they can to help in this fight."
Clinton's foundation has previously negotiated price discounts on HIV viral-load and T-cell diagnostic tests for developing nations. The tests, including machines, training, chemicals, and maintenance, are offered to poor countries at a discount of up to 80% from normal market prices.
The governments of each country participating in the generic drug program will be responsible for purchasing the drugs directly or outsourcing the task to procurement agencies, including UNICEF. Some countries, like South Africa and China, will use their own funds to buy the anti-HIV medications, while most of the other poor nations will use grants and donations to purchase the drugs. All participating countries will be required to establish secure drug distribution channels to prevent the cheap medications from being reimported to and sold in Western nations.
The announcement comes on the heels of news last week from an international AIDS meeting in Botswana that the Bush administration continues to oppose using U.S. international AIDS funds to purchase generic anti-HIV medications until studies can be done to prove the drugs meet Food and Drug Administration standards. The World Health Organization has already studied the drugs and approved their efficacy and safety. U.S. officials have questioned whether the WHO drug screening process is thorough enough and claim they want to ensure that the drugs will not contribute to the development of drug-resistant HIV strains through widespread or improper distribution and use of the medications.
AIDS activists praised the news of the Clinton Foundation-brokered agreement and offered criticism of Bush's ongoing opposition to generic anti-HIV medications. "The historic Clinton Foundation drug pricing and distribution deal is a powerful slap to President Bush's arrogant attempts to limit the use of generic AIDS medicines to suit the whims of his pharmaceutical backers," said Paul Davis of Health GAP in a press release. "The Clinton approach represents the direction Bush administration policy should take if the White House is serious about fighting AIDS."
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry supports the use of generic anti-HIV medications in developing nations.