India-based Mylan Laboratories and Aurobindo Pharma, manufacturers of generic AIDS drugs will start making available millions of pills for Africa containing a state-of-the-art medicine widely used in rich countries.
Reuters report that this development comes after the drug makers secured a multi-million dollar guarantee that caps prices at just $75 per patient a year.
According to experts the capping of the price can potentially save buyers more than $1 billion in drug bills over the next six years.
The various health ministries, as well as public sector buyers, will be able to buy TLD from next year at the capped price.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s pledge is a central plank of a new partnership - the largest of its kind in global health - that also includes the governments of South Africa and Kenya, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and American, British and U.N. agencies.
Bill Gates’ charitable foundation is expected to guarantee minimum sales volumes of the new combination pills using dolutegravir, a so-called integrase inhibitor that avoids the drug resistance that often develops with older treatments.
Under the deal, Mylan and Aurobindo will ramp up availability of a new fixed-dose combination of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, lamivudine and dolutegravir (TLD).
Already dolutegravir is been given to HIV patients but on a limited basis as a single drug in Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda.
ViiV Healthcare, the HIV business majority-owned by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) are the original makers of the drug, However, it has offered licensing deals to generic companies to sell low-cost versions of the medicine in poor countries.
Facts about HIV/AIDS according to Reuters
Around 37 million people around the world are infected with HIV, according to the United Nations AIDS agency UNAIDS. Just over half of them - about 19.5 million patients - get antiretroviral therapy medicines to keep their disease in check.
That represents remarkable progress in the past 20 years, driven by the availability of a first wave of cheap generic drugs from Indian companies. But rising levels of drug resistance are now a growing concern, while low prices have cut the incentive for investment in generic drug-making capacity.
In six out of 11 countries surveyed recently in Africa, Asia and Latin America, researchers found that more than 10 percent of HIV patients starting antiretroviral drugs had a strain of HIV resistant to the most widely-used medicines.
Once the 10 percent threshold is reached, best practice calls for switching to different drug regimens.
With the HIV-positive population still growing – there were an estimated 1.8 million new cases of infection in 2016 – the number of patients needing treatment is steadily increasing.
Industry experts like Johnson & Johnson Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels question the feasibility of maintaining lifelong treatment for a patient population that could reach 50 million.