Prices of anti-retroviral drugs to come down in India
Indian pharmaceutical companies have reacted positively to proposals by the Union government regarding a reduction in the price of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. Companies like Cipla, Ranbaxy Laboratories and Matrix Laboratories have already signed an understanding with the Clinton Foundation to provide treatment at 38 cents per person per day. The government is seeking further price reductions, for use at government hospitals.
At a meeting this month, the ministry proposed that drug manufacturers reduce their prices from about $ 1 per day to about 35-37 cents per day, which, in Indian rupees, would roughly be Rs 17-Rs 18.25 per day. This will reduce the price of ARV drugs in the country three-fold, raising the hopes of about 4.5 lakh HIV-positive people who are estimated to be in need of ARV drugs.
“About 4.58 million people in India are estimated to be HIV-positive. Out of these, about 10% is estimated to have reached a state of full-blown AIDS and require ARV drugs which are mostly out of reach as they are very costly and have to be continued for a lifetime,” says National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) director Meenakshi Dutta Ghosh.
The government, which presently provides anti-retroviral drugs to prevent infection in newborn babies from HIV-positive mothers, is expanding its current programme. Health minister Sushma Swaraj recently included children below 15 years of age and their mothers for free treatment. Now, free treatment is expected to be given to anyone who comes to a government hospital with full-blown AIDS.
The plan, which targets as many as one-and-a-half lakh affected people in five years, will be launched in the southern states and Delhi. About 150 districts in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi -- where HIV is highly prevalent -- will be chosen in the initial phase.
Officials claim that a working group, constituting government and pharmaceuticals industry officials, has been set up to look at ways to finance the programme. The group is headed by health secretary J V R Prasada Rao, with NACO director Dutta Ghosh and director-general, health services, Dr S P Agarwal as members.