The largest maker of HIV/AIDS drugs says it has lowered the price of one of its leading medications to less than one dollar a day, a 47 percent reduction. The drug, Combivir, has been widely used in the west as part of triple-drug therapies against HIV but generally has not been available in developing nations.
Nancy Pekarek is a spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline, USA. She spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the importance of the drug and why the price has been reduced. She says, “Combivir is a combination of two key AIDS drugs, AZT and 3TC. And by combining the two of those in one pill we’re able to reduce the actual pill burden for patients. So, they can take two medicines at once.” She says this is especially important in developing countries.
As for reducing the price of the drug, Ms. Pekarek says, “the company made a commitment that we would look at our pricing and try to reduce it as much as possible. And back in June of 2001, we committed that as volumes increased or as we got more efficiencies within our process of manufacturing we would pass those savings along to patients.”
Many AIDS activists have called on the pharmaceutical industry to provide their drugs to poor nations for free. However, the GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman says “sometimes free is not sufficient pricing.” She says the company has a policy called “sustainable pricing.” “We cover our basic costs, “ she says, “but we provide our medicines on a not for profit basis. And in that way we can treat that patient from the first day they go on that pill for the rest of their lives.” She says when drugs are donated there is the risk that supplies could be discontinued if a company runs into financial trouble, for example. She says by covering basic costs, GlaxoSmithKline can ensure a continuous flow of medication.
Click above links to download or listen to De Capua interview on Combivir.