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Viramune Price Cut in Developing World
  By Andrew Jack in London
Published: May 15 2007 03:00 | Last updated: May 15 2007 03:00
Boehringer Ingelheim, the privately-controlled German pharmaceutical company, is to slash the price of a pivotal HIV drug in the developing world and waive all barriers to generic manufacturers producing low-cost copies.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Alessandro Banchi, chairman of the company's managing board, unveiled measures to boost low-cost access to its medicine nevirapine (Viramune). "We want to solve the problem (of access) once and for all," he said.
Boehringer Ingelheim will reduce the price of the drug by 50 per cent to 60 cents a day per patient in 78 low-income countries, and by up to 90 per cent to $1.20 in 67 middle-income countries. In wealthy nations it sells for $10-14 a day.
Separately, the company will waive 5 per cent royalty payments, reporting requirements and other existing obligations for genericproducers approved by the World Health Organisation to make nevirapine using voluntary licences tooverride patents on the drug, in favour of a "non assert" policy.
The action will put fresh pressure on other drug companies to cut medicine prices in poorer countries for essential medicines, at a time when Brazil and Thailand recently announced compulsory licences to override rival companies' patents in spite of the manufacturers' objections.
The move follows a disappointing take up by low-cost generics producers of Boehringer Ingelheim's previous offer to issue voluntary licences, as it attempts to stimulate others to produce its drug at the lowest possible cost.
In a blow to rivals' claims that deeper discounts are not possible without removing necessary incentives to innovation, Mr Banchi added: "Preferential pricing is the only way how we can meet both conflicting needs in the fight against Aids. We can refinance our high research and development costs for innovative, new treatments by the established price system in industrialised countries and can offer affordable medicines to patients in poor countries who otherwise cannot afford antiretroviral medication."
Boehringer Ingelheim last year reported worldwide sales of 276m ($373m) from nevirapine, a modest amount compared with its other drugs. Mr Banchi said that if the decision to produce the drug was made on economic grounds alone, he would have ceased manufacture.
Nearly a third of nevirapine is supplied to the developing world, where it has also provided 1m treatments free of charge since 2000to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
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