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AIDS Drugs to Become Cheaper

Gilead Sciences Inc., a large manufacturer of drugs for AIDS, has agreed to allow generic manufacturers to make some of its AIDS drugs. This can improve their availability in poor African countries and bring down prices as well.

Gilead has agreed for four AIDS drugs to be manufactured more cheaply by generic drug makers. It will receive some royalties in return. About 33 million people have AIDS worldwide, a majority of them living in Africa.

The deal with Gilead was done by Medicines Patent Pool, a UN group that raises funds for malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. The Gilead deal is the first with a private firm. Many other pharma firms including ViiV Healthcare, Sequoia Pharmaceuticals and F. Hoffman-La Roche are also talking with the UN group to allow generic manufacture of their drugs.

Gilead’s AIDS drugs will be sold in about 100 countries and the company will receive about four percent of the royalties. AIDS patients living in poor countries typically wait for years for patents to expire on new AIDS drugs before generic companies can make them more cheaply.

Despite this welcome development, other major pharma companies like Merck & Co., Abbott Laboratories and Johnson and Johnson have thus far declined to negotiate with the UN group.

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