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US Company to Sell Cheap AIDS Drugs in Thailand

Thai health officials say an American pharmaceutical firm has offered to sell an antiretroviral drug to Thais living with HIV/AIDS at drastically reduced prices.

The Thai Red Cross Society's AIDS Research Center said Saturday Gilead Sciences will sell the drug Tenofovir for about $1 per tablet to Thais in the next few months - 90 percent cheaper than on U.S. and European markets.

Thais living with HIV/AIDS now depend largely on a generic drug called GPO-VIR. The government distributed the drug to about 50,000 people last year. But medical officials say many of the users are developing a resistance to the drug.

The AIDS Research Center says Tenofovir can be an affordable alternative for those people.

The center said Thailand's Food and Drug Administration has approved the drug for distribution.

Some 800,000 Thais are infected with HIV. Health workers say about 200,000 of them would benefit from antiretroviral drugs.

Thai health officials say the number of AIDS-related deaths in Thailand decreased from 5,000 in 2004 to 1,600 last year following a program that makes antiretroviral drugs available to HIV patients.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.