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HIV drugs need to be cheaper - MSF

2012-07-26 15:02

Washington - The high cost of HIV drugs is still hindering the global fight against Aids, the medical aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) told the International Aids Conference in Washington on Wednesday.

MSF medical director Nathan Ford told the conference that although the price of older drugs has plunged in recent years, many newer and more effective drugs remain unaffordable.

In some sub-Saharan African countries, newer medicines can cost more than 2 400 dollars per person per year - up to 15 times as much as older drugs, according to the organisation's latest yearly survey of the price of HIV medicine.

Many people worldwide have switched to newer drugs as viral resistance to older drugs has increased and newer, easier-to-tolerate treatments have been developed, he said. Drug resistance ranges from about 7% in poor and middle income countries up to 17% in some richer countries where medicines have been in use for decades, according to a report from the World Health Organisation.

The commercial interests of drug companies drive high prices, the aid group said. Rather than reduce prices across the board, drug manufacturers strike deals on a country-by-country basis.

"Pharma firms are doing it now because they can, because they have the patents now," said MSF policy director Michelle Childs. "There's a conflict between medical and commercial needs."

Nonetheless, emerging economies like Brazil and India are producing many of the drugs for use at home and for export at much cheaper cost than in developed countries. In poor countries, which receive international support in their treatment programmes, some anti-HIV medicines cost as little as $100 to $200 a year.