LONDON, Oct 24 (Reuters) - British drugs giant Glaxo Wellcome
PLC (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: GLXO.L) said on Tuesday it
has reached a deal with Senegal to sell its leading anti-AIDS
drugs to the West African nation for a fraction of their retail
The pact is one of the first price slashes in an initiative
announced in May by five major pharmaceutical companies to
provide drugs to poor African countries where the AIDS epidemic
has taken it strongest hold.
"Glaxo Wellcome has agreed a price with the government of
Senegal," Glaxo spokesman Philip Thomson told Reuters.
Its leading anti-AIDS drugs, Retrovir, Epivir and Combivir will
be available for about $2 a day, he added.
"We're working quite closely with Uganda and Kenya," Thomson
said, although no agreements had been reached yet.
Senegal said it had also negotiated bargain prices with Merck &
Co. (NYSE:MRK - news) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY -
news) in the United States. Switzerland's Roche Holding SA and
Germany's Boehringer Ingelheim are also taking part in the
Boehringer has offered its drug nervirapine, which cuts
mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus that causes AIDS,
free to poor nations for the next five years.
According to Thomson each company is negotiating separate price
reductions with African governments but it is all part of the
same initiative brokered by the United Nations.
The deal was set up by UNAIDS, the U.N. agency entrusted with
tackling the disease, but its senior technical adviser admitted
when it was announced five months ago that the details still
had to be sorted out.
"Clearly resources need to be found from within countries to
pay for some of it. The question of what external finance is
going to be required and where it is going to come from, and
who is prepared to pay are all discussion we are still having,"
she said at the time.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank are also
involved in the initiative.
Leading drug companies have come under increasing criticism for
not doing enough to curb AIDS in the developing world. The
prices of the drugs in the industrialised world are well beyond
the means of poor African countries.
The reduced drugs will mean that the anti-AIDS drug cocktails
that have prolonged the lives of AIDS sufferers in rich
countries will be available in poor African nations.
Nearly 25 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are living with
the AIDS virus.
In seven countries, all in the southern cone of the African
continent, at least one adult in five is living with the virus.
The disease has killed an estimated 19 million people