Ramsammy confident of deal for low-cost HIV drugs

Stabroek News
May 14, 2001

Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy says that his ministry is negotiating with the Indian pharmaceutical company, Cipla, to secure drug therapy for HIV infected patients for less than US$600 per year.

The protease inhibitors, a cocktail of three drugs which add years to an HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) infected person's life, are available locally but can cost as much as US$12,000 per year per person, Dr Ramsammy said.

He said he expected that within two months, if all went well, he would be able to secure an arrangement with Cipla for the low cost purchase of these drugs.

Negotiations with Cipla had been started by Ramsammy's predecessor at the ministry Dr Henry Jeffrey.

However, the stumbling block to the entire deal could be financing as the government does not have the kind of money required to provide these drug at a further subsidy to HIV positive patients, and even at US$600 per year, they would still be beyond the reach of many infected persons.

"We cannot afford at the moment to provide every single patient infected with the drug but we need to come up with some innovative solution as a nation," Dr Ramsammy said.

The approach, he intended to use on the issue, he said was to give priority to HIV positive pregnant women, which would reduce the transmission of the virus from the mother to her child. But he highlighted the need for equipment to be able to test the viral loads of patients. This, he said, was very costly, but needed to be put in place.

The minister was confident that arrangements could be put in place to ensure that the drugs are secured for Guyanese HIV patients.

Guyana is now ranked as one of the countries in the region with the fastest-growing HIV population. HIV is the virus that causes the fatal disease AIDS.