- A second agreement by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to allow generic AIDS drugs in South Africa has been met with little enthusiasm. "GSK already has a South Africa generic AIDS drug deal that has failed to produce one pill," comment AIDS activists.
The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) - which operates free HIV treatment clinics in South Africa and Uganda - today issued a critical statement regarding yesterday's news that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has penned a second agreement to allow generic AIDS drugs in South Africa.
The pharmaceutical company granted voluntary licenses for two of its most-selling drugs to the South African generic manufacturer Thembalami. This grant however came too late for Thembalami to bid in this year's state antiretroviral procurement as the drugs yet are to be registered in South Africa.
AHF President Michael Weinstein today recalled the failure in Glaxo's generic AIDS drug deal for South Africa so far. "This simply reinvents a broken wheel," said Mr Weinstein, referring to the new deal announced yesterday.
Yesterday's announcement was not breaking any new ground, "but replicates failed policy," Mr Weistein added. "We call on GSK to finally do the right thing and create a genuinely safe environment for generic production."
Glaxo should announce - as Roche had already done - that it will forego any legal action enforcing AIDS drug patents in sub-Saharan Africa and other resource-poor regions facing high HIV infection rates, the US-based AIDS activists demanded.
The British-based pharmaceutical company can look back on a tough week regarding its AIDS drug policies, provoking protests from a large number of players. On Wednesday, it was known that Glaxo had dropped out of an AIDS drug test series for the developing world, sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health.
Glaxo had pulled out of the trials after the company had failed to prevent the testing of a competing company's AIDS drugs. The pharmaceutical giant was immediately fiercely criticised by members of the US Congress for having "attempted to pressure researchers to drop this comparison 'as a quid pro quo for providing the drug'."
The US government sponsored scientific study is to establish which combination of AIDS drugs is best fitted to keep HIV infected alive in the developing world. For the first time, drug combinations from different producers were to be tested - in contrast to the industry-sponsored studies looking into combinations of drugs made by a single producer.
The study was also to take special considerations regarding the health sector in developing countries. Among other countries, special attention is to be given to conditions in Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
After the firece criticism from the US Congress, Glaxo spokeswoman Nancy Pekarek later on Wednesday bowed into pressure and said the company would resume its participation in the study.
A short time after the disastrous PR resulting from Glaxo's short-lived withdrawal from the study, the UK-based company announced it had granted voluntary licenses for two of its antiretrovirals – AZT and 3TC – to the South African generic manufacturer Thembalami.
However, according to the British charity NAM, Glaxo's announcement "comes too late" for Thembalami to bid in the first round of antiretroviral procurement, announced by the South African government in March. Glaxo last year was charged with overpricing by the South African Competition Commission and thus agreed to grant voluntary licenses to local companies for generic drugs, while only requiring a royalty of 5 percent or less.
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