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Emcure launches first 3-in-1 AIDS pill for kids

P.T. Jyothi Datta

Dr. Kenneth D. Kounda, First President of Zambia and Chairman of the Kenneth Kaunda Children of Africa Foundation, with Mr A.K. Khanna, Director (operations), Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd, at a press conference in Mumbai on Friday. - Paul Noronha

Mumbai , March 11

THE three-in-one AIDS drug for adult HIV/AIDS patients was developed in India. And now a similar combination drug for children is also being launched by an Indian company — the Pune-based Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd to be precise.

In a development that is expected to cheer doctors and volunteers working in the HIV/AIDS segment, Emcure is launching Emtri Suspension, a paediatric cocktail of three drugs, here today.

"This is the first of its kind in the world. The three drugs are Lamivudine, Stavudine and Nevirapine and it will be available in a suspension form starting tomorrow," Mr A.K. Khanna, Director-Operations with Emcure, told Business Line. The combination drug is priced at Rs 700 per month for the therapy, he said.

AIDS activists in India and across the world confirmed that 3-in-1 pills for children were not available from multinational drug companies, though Indian drug majors Cipla and Ranbaxy (who make the adult version of the combination drug) were also on the job.

The increasing number of children succumbing to HIV/AIDS had multilateral agencies urging pharma companies to come out with child-compatible versions of their drugs.

Globally 5.1 lakh children below 15 years have died of HIV/AIDS in 2004, according to UNAIDS data for 2004. An estimated 22-lakh children below 15 years are living with HIV, the multilateral agency report said.

According to Mr Khanna, in India there are about 55,000 children living with the illness. The children's version of the drug will be manufactured at Emcure's Pune factory.

According to Mr Khanna, the safety profile of the drug had been established since in the past, the adult form of the 3-in-1 pill was crushed and given to children.

"We have only changed the delivery mechanism, but there will be strong post-marketing surveillance," he said.

Emtri is being launched here today by Dr Kenneth Kaunda, First President of Zambia and Chairman of the Children of Africa Foundation. Dr Kaunda lost his son to the illness in 1986. "Then my wife and I decided we will make it public that we lost our child to AIDS," he said, making a plea to fight the stigma associated with the disease.

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