New GPC Inc may consider exporting anti-retrovirals
Stabroek News
December 31, 2001

The New GPC Inc may consider exporting HIV/AIDS anti-retroviral drugs to Caribbean territories but only after negotiations at the government level.

Executive Chairman, Dr Ranjisinghii Ramroop, in a recent interview with Stabroek News said that while he would not rule out the possibility of exporting the drugs it would only be done after the government of a country requested the drugs and negotiations were finalised with the Government of Guyana.

The company announced several weeks ago that it had begun manufacturing anti-retroviral drugs, which infected persons could get at a low cost.

Dr Ramroop declined to elaborate on the low cost offered but stated that it would be affordable and cheaper than what was being offered to the country at present.

Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, had said at a press conference that drugs would be available at between US$250 and US$350 per annum. The minister had also said that the drugs would be offered at the same price in the private sector as the public sector.

According to Ramroop, the drugs were being made for the Ministry of Health and were labelled to reflect this. As was stated earlier by Ramsammy, he said, the private sector could only access the drugs through the ministry, which would provide guidelines for doctors to work with. One of the first requirements for doctors in the private sector to access the much-needed drugs is that they must be trained to administer them.

The drugs are bottled in batches of 60 and according to Ramroop, 60 tablets would be a month's dosage, whether it was single or triple therapy. Each bottle of 60 is accompanied by a leaflet for the doctors to read, while patients would be provided with separate information on the drugs they are using. On the leaflet is the name of the drug, its composition, description, dosage and administration, dosage according to age group, contra-indications, warnings etc.

Speaking to Stabroek News at his New Market Street office, Ramroop said that the project to make the anti-retroviral drugs started six months ago. At the moment the company is making ten of these drugs, eight single and two triple therapy.

The two triple therapy drugs are LSN 30 and LSN 40. The other HIV/AIDS drugs made by the company are Dimune, two types of Zidimune, two types of Stavimune, Lavimune, Nerahiv and Indimune, the protease inhibitor, which is used in 'salvage therapy'.

Ramroop said the drugs were being made according to the guidelines provided by the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) and the British Pharmacopoeia (BP).

The raw materials and technical assistance necessary to manufacture the drugs are being obtained from an international pharmaceutical company based in India which manufactures the drugs. Stabroek News once again asked Dr Ramroop for the name of the company but he declined indicating that the issue was a sensitive one.

He also refused to state which companies held the patents to the drugs and was not keen on disclosing whether his company obtained permission to manufacture them.

He said that the chemicals to make the drugs were airlifted to Guyana within three days and they came in large jars. To start manufacturing the drugs the company was required to significantly upgrade its quality control and quality assurance systems and had acquired High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) equipment.

The move by the company to manufacture the anti-retroviral drugs comes amid health ministry projections that about 5.5% of the country's population was infected with the deadly HIV virus. This statistic is for persons between the ages of 15 and 49 and it means that just about one person in every 20 is infected.

The company's roots date back to the 1920's when Bookers Drug Store was formed to manufacture medicines, which, according to background information made available by the New GPC, had all been imported into then British Guiana.

However, the company's line quickly expanded to include products such as `Limacol' and `Ferrol'. In the years that followed the company underwent several changes in ownership and name, culminating in its nationalisation in 1976 and the establishment of the Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation Ltd.

In December 1999 the company was privatised pursuant to the government's privatization policy and the New GPC Inc was formed. The present company is a private one, incorporated under the Companies Act 1991. (Samantha Alleyne)