AIDS activists demand access to important cryptococcal meningitis drug

At the 10th International HIV Conference on Science (IAS 2019) taking place in Mexico City, AIDS activists protested Gilead’s inaction to make its life-saving drugs available.

Nearly one year ago, Gilead announced its ‘access initiative’ promising lower prices for its drug critical to treat cryptococcal meningitis, the second leading killer of people living with HIV, which is responsible for an estimated 15% of deaths. Without treatment, the infection of the brain leads to painful death.

Cryptococcal meningitis is the second leading killer of people living with HIV – responsible for an estimated 15% of deaths.

The commitment from Gilead was to offer the lower ‘non-profit’ price of USD 16.25 per vial liposomal amphotericin B (L-AmB) to 116 countries. However, to date, the drug remains largely inaccessible in these countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends L-AmB as part of the preferred treatment combination over alternative amphotericin formulations, given its better side effects profile which could improve cure rates among people living with HIV – but they note the challenges in price and accessing it.

Gilead has registered the drug in only six of the 116 countries, and even where it is registered, the drug is unavailable at an affordable price. Among countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which is hit hardest by HIV, Gilead has only registered the drug two countries: Ethiopia and South Africa.

In the countries where it is available, the private sector is the only source. But these prices are exceedingly high: In India it costs USD 45 per vial in the private market (via Mylan as Gilead’s exclusive distributor). In South Africa, it costs USD 200 per vial in the private sector.

Activists demanded that Gilead commit to registering its drug in developing countries and make good on the price commitment of USD 16.25 per vial. As a matter of priority, Gilead should make use of the WHO Collaborative Registration Procedure (CRP) in order to expedite national registration in addition to applying for registration in countries not covered by the CRP. In addition, the activists called for Gilead to be transparent about where it has submitted for registration and timelines for future registration filings.

Issued by Health GAP and theInternational Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC).

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