Guyana to seriously consider manufacturing anti-HIV drugs
Stabroek News
November 28, 2001

Guyana will "seriously consider" the possibility of manufacturing its own anti-retroviral drugs for people living with HIV and AIDS, according to a Government Information Agency (GINA) press release.

The release said that Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy told reporters yesterday that he "will examine the option if necessary."

When pressed, he revealed that government has found it "necessary to do so" since "Guyana could not afford even the reduced cost the drug was being offered at.

The recent World Trade Organisation talks in Doha, Qatar have paved the way for developing countries to produce generic versions of patented drugs to battle public health emergencies.

Dr Ramsammy had announced last month that the anti-retroviral drug therapy would be made available at an affordable price for HIV positive persons, but had been refusing to say where the drug would be sourced from.

Stabroek News had put the question to him on several occasions, but he kept saying he was unable to say as the matter was a "very sensitive one."

However, this newspaper was reliably informed that the drug was being made in Guyana. Last week, when the question was put to Dr Ramsammy on whether the drug was being made here he declined to answer the question directly.

The minister had told Stabroek News that the triple cocktail drug was available in Guyana and that patients at the Georgetown Public Hospital were being treated at the moment by one doctor who was trained to do so. He said then that the problem the ministry was experiencing was the lack of trained doctors to administer the drug.

The minister also said that he hoped the hospital would be able to treat around 1,000 patients but was unable to say how many patients were already being attended to

According to the minister, acquiring the drug was once the biggest problem, but now it was getting trained personnel to administer it as well as to teach patients how to use the medication. He said that the ministry was still in the process of formulating its overall programme, which would be greatly assisted by the fact that the drug was now in the country.

He had disclosed that in a few weeks time he would be releasing the 'minimum care package'.

During his announcement last month, the minister had stated that the drug would cost between US$250 and US$350 per person per year compared to the commercial rates of between US$10-12,000 per year.