Sciences said Tuesday that it would sell its new
antiretroviral HIV drug at cost in 68 of the world's
poorest countries including every nation in Africa.
pledge by the Foster City biotech firm left unanswered a
key detail -- how steeply the company will discount its
one-a-day AIDS drug called Viread that wholesales for
about $10 a day in the United States.
chief executive John Martin said he thought
manufacturing and distribution costs would dictate a
rock-bottom price at or under $3 a day when the program
begins in the spring.
as activists agitated for even steeper discounts,
prominent AIDS fighters gave Gilead an "A" for
is a pretty bold step for a company this young,"
said Rene Durazzo, with the Pangea Global AIDS
Foundation, the world health spin-off of the San
Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Collins, director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition
and a former aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi,
D-San Francisco, said Gilead had set an example for the
rest of the industry.
is where the pharmaceutical industry should have been
long ago," Collins said, "planning to make a
reasonable profit in the richer countries, while
offering steeply tiered (discounted) prices in poorer
has been on the market a little over a year in the
United States. It has excited AIDS doctors and patients
because it can be taken once a day and has been shown
effective against strains of HIV that have become
resistant to previous drugs.
of Viread, which has about 75,000 regular users in the
United States, have made Gilead profitable -- a rarity
among biotech firms.
said Tuesday that the company's officers and board had
always planned to make a low-cost version of the pill
available in poor nations once the firm had put the
company on a sound financial footing.
said Gilead also wanted to wait a year to announce the
no-profit pledge for the developing world in order to
make sure no safety problems cropped up when thousands
of patients began taking the pill daily.
talking about using these drugs in parts of the world
where the medical oversight isn't there," he said.
though they are about the program, Gilead officials
downplayed expectations. Right now, for instance,
upwards of 30 million Africans are infected with HIV,
yet only 30,000 are getting antiretrovirals because
there isn't money -- even at the reduced rates that are
becoming available for others AIDS drugs -- to treat
Hannah Kettler, director of the Institute for Global
Health in San Francisco, said programs such as Gilead's
would still require someone to buy the drug, since the
company can't afford to simply give away millions of
pills a day.
agencies, foundations and governments have to step up
and create buying funds," Kettler said.
Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry
Organization, which recently held a world health forum
in Washington, D.C., said Gilead's pledge demonstrated
that the biotech industry understood that world opinion
was demanding action to confront the AIDS crisis.
Martin and Gilead just get it," Feldbaum said.
Tom Abate at email@example.com.