Glaxo cuts drug prices for developing countries

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 23 June 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1510
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. London

    The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline is to lower the cost to the developing world of its antimalarial and newer HIV and AIDS drugs—a move welcomed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and aid charities.

    GlaxoSmithKline set out its new policy in a document, Facing the Challenge. The newer HIV and AIDS drugs will join established treatments such as zidovudine (Retrovir), which is already available at preferential prices in developing countries.

    Abacavir (Ziagen), a nucleoside analogue, will now cost £2.40 ($3.36) a day in developing countries, compared with a list price of £7.22 a day for the United States. Trizivir (abacavir, lamivudine, and zidovudine) will cost will cost £4.47 a day (versus £19.26). The protease inhibitor amprenavir (Agenerase) will cost £6.19 a day (versus £12.73).

    The antimalarial treatment Malarone (atovaquone and proguanil) will be £13 a day (versus £36.47). Halofantrine (Halfan) will be £1 a day (versus £6.88). The company will also carry out five pilot projects offering anti-infective, de-worming, and anti-diarrhoeal drugs at preferential prices.

    The number of countries eligible for the cheaper prices will be expanded to include all countries in sub-Saharan Africa and all the least developed countries, as identified by the United Nations. The offer is also to be extended beyond governments to include non-governmental organisations and employers in Africa that offer HIV and AIDS treatment to their staff.

    Jean-Pierre Garnier, chief executive officer of GlaxoSmithKline, said: “We are extending our preferential pricing offers to more products, to more countries, and to more customer groups in an effort to secure greater access for patients to treatment that is both appropriate and sustainable.”

    Gregory Hartl, spokesman for the WHO, welcomed the move: “Everything done to facilitate access to drugs in developing countries has to be good.” But he added: “In respect to AIDS drugs, they will still be too expensive for the huge majority of Africans without additional support. The drug companies have done their bit; now it is up to both western and African governments to do more.”

    Oxfam said that the announcement set a new benchmark on drug pricing. “It is as much as we could reasonably expect of one company on their prices,” said Oxfam's senior policy adviser, Sophia Tickell.

    But she called on the company to take a lead in pushing for change to global patent rules. “GlaxoSmithKline continues to maintain that World Trade Organisation patent rules are not an issue in access to drugs in poor countries. But Oxfam research shows that they in fact lead to high drug prices way beyond the reach of millions of people in the world's poorest countries.”

    • GlaxoSmithKline last week announced that as many as 1000 jobs would be axed in the United Kingdom, including 500 jobs in Liverpool and up to 400 jobs in Barnard Castle, County Durham. It also plans to sell its site at Montrose, Angus, where there are 720 employees.

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