About AIDS

HIV Treatment in One Cheap Pill? Not in U.S.

The harsh reality of the many ills afflicting American medicine continues to be demonstrated in the HIV/AIDS arena: A "second world" drug maker will soon be marketing a complete HIV therapy in a single three-in-one combination tablet for not much more than our household spends per month on vitamins and aspirin. But will you ever see that here? Not on your life - maybe literally.

Cipla, the biggest pharmaceutical company in India, is introducing a three-drug pill called Triomune, the world's first three-in-one combination pill for HIV. It combines stavudine (d4T or Zerit), lamivudine, (3TC or Epivir), and nevirapine (Viramune), three commonly used compounds which together constitute one of the combinations referred to as highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) - the "drug cocktail" for HIV treatment. In the U.S., this combination costs thousands of dollars annually. Cipla's price: $38.20 a month.

One of the reasons Triomune is unlikely to be released here is that their patents are held by different drug manufacturers, and such cooperative partnering is unheard of among American makers, regardless of the benefit to consumers. In India, Cipla holds licenses from all three companies.

The other reason, of course, is that the U.S. health care system is the pharmaceutical industry's cash and profit cow. That's very beneficial for their executives and stockholders, but it's disastrous for sick Americans and us taxpayers. Cipla's move is a tremendous step forward for India's million-plus HIV-positive people; it's embarrassing for America.

- Sandy Bartlett, Community Information/Education Coordinator

AIDS Services of Austin

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