MEXICO CITY--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As more than 20,000 people from around the world gather this weekend for the start of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) the US-based NGO which provides HIV/AIDS medical care and/or services to more than 79,000 individuals in 20 countries worldwide—including at four free treatment clinics in Mexico—commended Merck & Company (known as Merck, Sharp & Dohme in Mexico) over price cuts on two of its key AIDS drugs in Mexico which were announced yesterday before Sunday’s opening of the AIDS conference. Merck cut its price of Stocrin (efavirenz, branded as Sustiva in the US) in Mexico by 40% from 777 pesos per patient monthly to 468 pesos (roughly from $77.50 USD to $46 USD), and on Isentress (raltegravir) by 30% from 9.050 pesos to 6.851 pesos per patient monthly ($903 USD to $683 USD)
“The efforts of some very passionate AIDS activists are paying off in Mexico with Merck’s announcement of significant price cuts on two of its AIDS drugs, Stocrin and Isentress,” said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President. “Though there is still much to be done in the fight for affordable lifesaving AIDS drugs in Mexico and throughout the world—including further advocacy focusing on Merck—we commend Merck today for instituting these double digit price reductions in response to activists’ pleas for lower prices as a means to increase access to antiretroviral treatment throughout Mexico. We want to ensure that people in need in Mexico are not arbitrarily priced out of such lifesaving AIDS treatments, and we will continue to vigorously advocate both government and industry for universal access to antiretroviral treatment.”
“Merck will still charge $1.51 USD per patient per day for Stocrin in Mexico while the drug is available in Brazil—a country with a similar per capita income—for roughly 50 cents per day. We have challenged Merck before for charging four times as much as they do in other Latin American and middle-income countries for drugs like Stocrin. Steep pricing effectively makes these drugs all but out of reach for nearly all those living with HIV/AIDS in Mexico,” said Dra. Patricia Campos, Latin America Bureau Chief for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and a member of the ‘Coalicion de Activistas por el Accesso Universal en VIH/SIDA.’ “Over the past year, AHF and a growing coalition of AIDS activists here in Mexico have undertaken efforts to make policy makers and the public-at-large aware of the imbalance in Merck’s policies regarding the pricing of its AIDS drugs as compared to how Merck prices the same drugs in what are considered least-developed countries. We also need to continue to push Merck on the registration and pricing of the three-in-one, once-a-day combination therapy, Atripla, to make certain that people in need in Mexico and elsewhere have access to this lifesaving regimen.”
Background on Advocacy Focusing on Merck and Stocrin
In June, 2007, AHF launched a print ad campaign targeting Merck’s AIDS drug pricing in policies in Mexico regarding Stocrin in a campaign headlined, “AIDS Drug Prices to Die For.’ Color print ads ran in the prominent Mexican newspaper La Jornada. In addition, AHF hosted a community forum on AIDS drug pricing that June in Mexico City for policy makers, AIDS advocates, government officials and AIDS service organizations to educate and inform the public and key decision-makers about the widely-varying—and seemingly-arbitrary—pricing policies in Mexico of many major pharmaceutical companies.
During the past two weeks, activists from the ‘Coalicion de Activistas por el Accesso Universal en VIH/SIDA’ also staged a protest in front of Merck, Sharp and Dohme’s offices in Mexico City over the company’s drug pricing and policies. The activists also protested the fact that Merck had greeted members of the Coalition for a previously arranged meeting set for the prior week by calling the police on them, a seemingly heartless or knee jerk corporate tactic which forced the Coalition’s abrupt cancellation of that meeting.
In Latin America, AIDS Healthcare Foundation currently provides free HIV/AIDS care to people in need through its clinics in Mexico (Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas; and Pachuca, Hidalgo) and in Guatemala (Quetzaltenango).
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the US’ largest HIV/AIDS organization. AHF currently provides treatment, care and support services to more than 79,000 individuals in 20 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at www.aidshealth.org