Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Jul 27, 2004
Industry & Economy
Govt asks WHO to prolong AIDS drugs supply
P.T. Jyothi Datta
Mumbai , July 26
WITH only a week to go for the close of the first four months of free distribution of anti-AIDS drugs to patients, the Union Health Ministry has requested the World Health Organisation (WHO) to continue its procurement of AIDS medicines for a little while longer.
Meanwhile, the process of appointing an independent procurement agency is also underway.
"The Health Ministry has written to the WHO requesting that they continue the process of procurement of anti-AIDS drugs for the project, as an interim arrangement.
This is till an independent procurement agency is appointed and the World Bank is in the process of seeking bids for this purpose," Ms Meenakshi Datta Ghosh, Project Director, National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), told Business Line.
Funds to support the free-AIDS drugs project also seem to be flowing in, sources close to the negotiations said, "with a lions share of the $260 million cleared last month by the Global Fund for AIDS/ Tuberculosis and Malaria being set aside for HIV/AIDS." An estimated $160 million approved by the Global Fund in it's fourth round of funding is for HIV/AIDS.
The free-AIDS drugs project had been announced by the previous Government at a project cost of Rs 200 crore and a plan to cover about one lakh HIV/AIDS patients.
And since Indian drug companies had sealed a deal with the Clinton Foundation to provide drugs at a cost of $140 per month per patient the Indian Government also initiated discussions with drug companies Ranbaxy, Cipla, Hetero and Matrix, besides diagnostic companies, to garner support for the project.
However, with discussions between the Government and pharmaceutical companies being dead-locked over the price of medicine procurement and with the previous Government then going into election mode - NACO launched the project in April 2004 with supplies procured by the WHO.
The project was launched for an initial period of four months, covering eight hospitals in states that had a high-prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country.
With July coming to a close, organisations working with HIV/AIDS persons were worried whether the project would be derailed, since the recent Budget did not mention an allocation for this project. Also, no break-through seemed to have been made with drug companies on the price issue, the source said.
India has an estimated 5.1 million HIV/AIDS cases. Eight more hospitals have been brought under the project, taking the total number of hospitals where free AIDS drugs would be provided up to 16. The project seeks to cover 25,000 patients by March-end 2005 and about 1,89,000 patients in five years, Ms Ghosh said.
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