NEW YORK – Manufacturing generic antiretroviral drugs has become a losing financial proposition for the few companies involved, according to Dr. Ren Minghui, the Assistant Director General for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases at the World Health Organization. At a Thursday session at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, Minghui described a global generic antiretroviral drug marketplace dominated by four Indian companies that produce 70 percent of the lifesaving HIV medicines used in low and middle-income countries. It is a market, he said that has seen several companies leave and no new companies entering over at least the last eight years.
“We must stop pressing for price reductions for these drugs,” Minghu said. Medications comprise only 10 percent of the price of HIV care, he noted. He warned that price cuts will further jeopardize access to these medicines for the more than 30 million people who need them to stay alive.
“The burden of supplying 30 million people with antiretroviral drugs is too much for just a few companies,” Minghu said. The social good of producing accessible medicine, he said, was what senior officials from generic drug companies had told him was their only impetus for staying in the market.
Incentivizing more companies to participate, supporting regional and local capacity to develop, manufacture and deliver quality-assured generic medicines, simplifying treatments and looking for cost efficiencies in other components of HIV care are among the actions he said will be necessary to ensure access to these medicines for those who live in low-income countries.