GlaxoSmithKline offers 90% discount on HIV drugs to Africa
Plans to supply heavily discounted AIDS drugs to medical charities working in Africa were announced today by GlaxoSmithKline.
Announcing pretax profits of 5,327 million pounds, chief executive J. P. Garnier accepted that the pharmaceutical industry shares responsibility with governments and international agencies to ensure that the millions of people infected with HIV in developing countries are not denied treatment because of the high price of drugs.
“I have made it a priority from day one to urgently review what more we can do in partnership with others. This is a very complex issue but we are determined to play our part,” he told a news conference in London.
Garnier pointed out that the firm already offers HIV drugs at a significant discount, in excess of 90%, to some countries in the developing world. “This has not been reported enough in the press,” he added, alluding to recent criticism from Oxfam.
He said the firm had already agreed to supply Senegal, Uganda and Rwanda and discussions were underway with another 31 governments. “However it is not enough. Faster progress is needed,” he admitted.
“We are [therefore] offering our HIV drugs at the same heavily discounted price to any not-for profit organisation that is able to deliver medicines to patients in developing countries. We are not going to wait for the governments to close those deals but are going to go directly to those NGOs”.
The initiative will target Africa, where the combined problem of HIV infection and poverty is greatest. However, Garnier stressed that all sectors of society, not just the pharmaceutical industry, must play their part in removing barriers to healthcare.
The announcement follows concern by analysts that failure to address policies on access to medicines in developing countries could ultimately be bad for earnings as well as morally questionable.
Yesterday, members of ACT-UP staged a protest in front of the New York City-based offices of GlaxoSmithKline.
The AIDS advocacy organisation is calling on GlaxoSmithKline to “allow the importation of generic medicines, and give voluntary licenses to generic manufacturers in order to bring costs down,” Paul Davis of ACT-UP Philadelphia said. The activists are also demanding that “GlaxoSmithKline remove themselves as a plaintiff against the South African Medicines Act [and] cease their fraudulent patent claims in Ghana.”