Submitted by AIDS Healthcare Foundation
In conjunction with the expected release of GSK's 2001 full year fiscal results on Thursday, February 14th, United States Congresswoman Diane Watson (D, California) and AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the nation's largest provider of specialized HIV/AIDS medical care, hosted a series of press conferences and media events today, Wednesday, February 13th, in Washington, DC, and at GSK's regional and worldwide headquarters in Research Triangle Park, NC; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Greenford, UK, urging GlaxoSmithKline, one of the largest AIDS drug manufacturers in the world, to lower the prices and cut the bureaucracy on their life-saving AIDS drugs. The events included press conferences in Washington, DC, and North Carolina, the unveiling of a "Glaxo: Do the Right Thing!" newspaper ad, and the launch of a global web-based petition drive (see www.aidshealth.org) demanding affordable drug pricing in poor nations for life-saving GlaxoSmithKline HIV medications.
"It is time for GlaxoSmithKline to lower their prices and cut the red tape for their HIV/AIDS drugs for Africa and the world," said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President, at the Washington, DC, press conference. "GSK's so-called 'preferential pricing' for the developing world is little more than newspaper headlines -- the reduced prices bring drug regimen costs close to 2,000 U.S. dollars per patient per year -- a price virtually no individual or government in the developing world can afford."
Ironically, GSK may offer the best hope to save millions of people worldwide because they combine several life-saving AIDS drugs into one pill usually taken twice a day. However, the reduced prices they have so far offered aren't saving lives -- Glaxo's prices are simply not affordable for most poor and developing nations.
"According to the World Health Organization, over 8,500 adults and children around the world die from AIDS every day," said United States Congresswoman Diane Watson (D, California) at the Washington press conference. "When we have so many potentially life-saving AIDS drugs available today, this is truly a tragedy -- the tragedy of AIDS that one South African newspaper recently editorialized as 'the new apartheid: pernicious, genocidal and bureaucratic.'"
AHF and Congresswoman Watson want Glaxo to reduce their prices further so that per patient costs per year are approximately USD$500 for a drug regimen that would utilize GSK's brand name HIV medications. (Note: generic versions of such drugs -- an approach providers like Medecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders are exploring in countries like South Africa -- may cost as little as USD$150 per patient per year according to MSF officials.)
"I am well aware that research and development for any drug is an expensive proposition," Congresswoman Watson added. "However, the United States government -- which is also one of the largest purchasers of AIDS drugs -- contributes to the development of many such drugs with the help of U.S. government research dollars and via the benefit of generous tax incentives. I wholeheartedly believe GlaxoSmithKline can drastically reduce prices of their HIV medications for poor nations, cover their manufacturing costs while earning a modest profit, and save countless lives in the process. Glaxo: it is simply the right thing to do."
Many AIDS drugs are quite financially lucrative for their manufacturers and patent holders. Often, the patents of such profit making AIDS drugs remain in or revert to private pharmaceutical company hands despite the fact that U.S. tax dollars and direct government research funding often contributed significantly to the development of these life-saving drugs.
After the morning press conference in Washington, DC, several AIDS Healthcare Foundation officials hosted an afternoon press conference (4:15pm EST) in North Carolina in front of GSK's Research Triangle Park, NC, facility. AHF officials delivered a copy of a newspaper advertisement demanding "GSK: Lower AIDS Drug Prices -- Do the Right Thing!" scheduled to run tomorrow, February 14th (the day GSK releases its FY 2001 numbers), in the Raleigh "News and Observer."
"We are here urging GSK employees to read our ad in tomorrow's 'News and Observer' and help pressure the company to lower its prices for these life-saving AIDS drugs," said Cesar Portillo, AIDS Healthcare Foundation Chief of Public Affairs at the North Carolina event. "GSK's bureaucracy has also created needless red tape for clinics providing care to the poor in developing countries, a hurdle that none of GSK's peers require. Glaxo must act immediately to reduce their prices, cut the red tape and make these drugs available."
In addition to these two press conferences, a copy of the global web-based petition (see www.aidshealth.org) and copies of the North Carolina newspaper ad were to be delivered to GSK's world headquarters outside London and to GSK officials at their Johannesburg, South Africa, offices.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Global Immunity initiative currently operates two AIDS clinics in Africa: the "Ithembalabantu (Zulu for 'the people's hope') Clinic," in KwaZulu Natal Province, Durban, South Africa, in partnership with the Network of AIDS Communities of South Africa (NetComSA), a local non government organization (NGO); the other clinic is in Masaka, Uganda, operated in partnership with the Uganda Business Coalition (UBC).
"AIDS Healthcare Foundation has always gone to where the need is greatest," said AHF President Michael Weinstein. "We are the largest provider of specialized HIV/AIDS care in the United States with over 11,000 patients and fifteen years of experience with direct patient HIV/AIDS care. We clearly saw that for us it was the right thing to try and do something more in the worldwide fight against AIDS, despite daunting odds. As GlaxoSmithKline executives, employees and stockholders look back on their financial and business performance for 2001, I challenge them also to look to the future and help do the right thing for people living with AIDS throughout the world."
-- GSK is the second largest pharmaceutical manufacturer in the U.S., and the biggest manufacturer in Europe.(1)
-- Worldwide GSK sales of AIDS-related anti-retroviral medications for 3rd quarter 2001 was US$490 million.(2)
-- Worldwide GSK sales of all pharmaceuticals for 3rd quarter 2001 was US$7.2 billion, with US$1.9 billion in profits.(3)
-- GSK controls US$2 billion in worldwide AIDS anti-retroviral drug sales out of a total annual market of US$5 billion (40% market share).
-- GSK's Trizivir and Combivir drastically simplify treatment by combining multiple life-saving medications in one pill.
-- GSK's so-called "preferential pricing" program fails to make their drugs affordable. For example, Combivir is offered in South Africa at US$1.8 for a daily dose.(4) That totals US$657 annually for the two-drug pill. This "preferential pricing" is twice as high as the AIDS advocate target price of no more that US$500 annually for a complete, three-drug combo.
-- Among the major manufacturers of such medications, GSK alone demands AIDS clinics in poor countries sign "memorandum of understanding" and "supply agreement" in order to buy GSK drugs at "preferential prices," and then creates lengthy delays in approving these documents.
(1) IMS data (MAT June 2001), JP Morgan H&Q 20th Annual Healthcare Conference, 1/9/2002
(2) Third Quarter 2001 results, dated Oct. 23, 2001, www.gsk.com
(3) JP Morgan H&Q 20th Annual Healthcare Conference, 1/9/2002
(4) Glaxo Wellcome South Africa preferential price list for non-profit organizations, 12/19/2001
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