MSD further announces price reduction of its ARV drug

By Henry Neondo

Marck, Sharp and Dome pharmaceutical company announced a further reduction of its drug, stocrin aimed to benefit developing countries.

In East Africa, the drug marketed as efavirenz goes for about Sh71 in Kenya for example on a daily dose but will now go for Sh56 in the new 20 per cent price reduction.

The announcedment was made as the company that spearheaded price reduction of HIV and Aids drugs globally in 2001 marked its fifth anniversary of the announcement of its worldwide HIV/AIDS pricing policy on Tuesday.

A press release from MSD says that the 200 mg formulation of Stocrin has been reduced by 22 percent to US $0.36 per capsule, or $1.08 per day and about US $394.20 per patient per year, from $0.46 per capsule.

The company says that it is lowering the price of the formulations of Stocrin due to new efficiencies and cost savings resulting from improved manufacturing processes.

It further said that the new prices would be available to countries in the low category of the Human Development Index (HDI) – as defined by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) – and in medium HDI countries with an adult HIV prevalence rate of 1 percent or greater as reported by UNAIDS.

These prices are available to all HIV/AIDS care and treatment providers like governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private sector organizations (such as employers, insurers and hospitals) with demonstrable capacity to ensure increased patient access.

Under the MSD HIV/AIDS pricing policy, the medicines must be used in the country where they are sold and may not be exported.

“Today’s price reductions reflect our commitment to improving the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS throughout the developing world. We hope to be able to reduce the price of Stocrin again in the future as we continue to achieve efficiencies in our manufacturing processes,” said Richard T. Clark, Chief Executive Officer and President, Merck & Co., Inc.

At the end of 2005, nearly 20, 000 Kenyans and 500,000 patients in 76 developing countries were being treated with antiretroviral regimens containing either of MSD’s two current HIV/AIDS medicines, Stocrin or Crivan (indinavir sulfate).

Reacting immediately to the announcement, the UN Aids agency Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot, said that the announcement of further price reductions by Merck is very welcome.

The cost of antiretroviral therapies from both research-based and generic pharmaceutical companies has declined dramatically in recent years.

In addition to MSD’s ongoing HIV/AIDS antiretroviral and vaccine research programs, the Company continues to work in many public-private partnerships focused on increasing access to treatment and care.

These partnerships play a critical role in the developing world by helping to build the health systems capacity necessary to ensure sustainable access to health care and treatment. Some of these programs include: African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP) in Botswana, Merck Mectizan Donation Program, China/Merck HIV/AIDS Partnership, Merck Vaccine Network-Africa and Merck Medical Outreach Program (MMOP).

Stocrin is a once-daily, non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) used in combination treatment for HIV. People living with HIV/AIDS have the option of taking one 600 mg Stocrin tablet once-daily instead of three 200 mg capsules. The 600 mg tablet is approved in more than 90 countries.

Stocrin in combination with other antiretroviral agents is indicated for the treatment of HIV-1 infection.

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