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Cheaper medicines expected for Chinese AIDS patients
Updated: 2004-07-15 12:55

Chinese AIDS patients are expected to get much cheaper medicines following the signing of an agreement between China and US-based pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the Beijing-based China Economic Times reported Wednesday.

In last April, China's ministries of health and finance jointly issued a policy document pledging free treatment to poor AIDS patients in both urban and rural areas.

Six anti-virus medicines including epivir, zidovudine and stavudine, all needed in the so-called "cocktail therapy" for AIDS patients, were picked as officially-designated medicines to be purchased by the government and distributed free.

The Chinese government had negotiated for years with foreign companies holding the patent and sales right. As a result, China started its home production of the anti-AIDS medicines last year, and currently there are several domestic pharmaceutical companies in Shanghai and northeast China manufacturing all of the government-endorsed medicines except epivir.

According to the latest deal with the Chinese government, GSK will sell the epivir on the Chinese market at a "preferential price" for the period between 2004 and 2006, sources with GSK China Investment Co. Ltd. said.

GSK is considering launching epivir production in China, which will help further reduce the cost and price, the sources added.

Anti-virus medicines used to cost Chinese AIDS patients 30,000 to 50,000 yuan (US$36,00 to 6,000) a year as the country had no capability to produce such medicines and had to rely on imports.

Medical experts here are optimistic that the prices of medicines for AIDS, which have already dropped in recent months, will continue to fall. In the near future, they say, each AIDS patient might only have to pay 3,000 to 5,000 yuan (US$360 to 600) a year for treatment.

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