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'Cipla, Tell the Truth'; AIDS Healthcare Foundation Launches New Ad Campaign

Open Letter Print Ad to Appear Today in Major Indian Newspapers Includes Chart Comparing Cipla Drug Prices in India vs. Africa; AHF Urges Lower

Prices, Greater Access for Indians in Need

NEW DELHI, India, Sept. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As part of its ongoing global campaign to lower drug prices and improve access to lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatments worldwide, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has published a print advertisement in the form of an open letter that will appear in several prominent Indian newspapers today.

Headlined 'Cipla, Tell the Truth' this latest ad is scheduled to appear in the Mumbai editions of The Indian Express and The Financial Express today and in the Delhi editions within a few days and follows a month-long public dialogue regarding higher prices offered by Cipla for its generic HIV/AIDS drugs in India vs. Africa. The controversy was sparked by an earlier drug- pricing advocacy ad placed by AHF in Indian newspapers in August. Headlined 'Profit at What Cost? AIDS Drugs for All' the ad questioned a 150% price difference between what Cipla has offered African and Indian purchasers for the same lifesaving antiretroviral medication. Spurred by AHF's allegations, the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC), India's anti-trust commission that probes monopolistic, restrictive and unfair trade practices, recently began an investigation into Cipla's pricing practices.

"With this advertisement, we hope to put an end to the recent storm of controversy pitting AHF and Cipla against each other and to re-focus the public dialogue on what is most important: the fact that Cipla's HIV/AID drug prices are simply too high in India," said Chinkholal Thangsing, M.D., Asia Pacific Bureau Chief for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and a medical provider based in New Delhi. "We also hope to refute baseless claims recently leveled at AHF regarding the motives behind our efforts to lower HIV/AIDS drug prices in India and to increase access to lifesaving medicines. As a non-profit organization with a twenty-year history of providing free medical care and advocacy to people living with HIV/AIDS our commitment has been, is, and always will be to the people we serve. We urge Cipla to end its attempts to divert attention away from the facts so that we can get down to the important work of saving lives."

AHF begins its open letter to Cipla by reiterating its original claim- which Cipla has yet to refute-that the generic manufacturer is offering many of its HIV/AIDS medicines at significantly lower prices in African than in India: "The simple truth is that Cipla is charging too much for its drugs in India and its pricing is depriving Indians living with HIV/AIDS of access to lifesaving treatment ... Cipla is charging much more for anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs in India than they do in Africa."

A chart included in the ad compares the private price Cipla offers in India to the government or non-governmental organization price offered in Africa and the private price offered in Uganda (where AHF operates free treatment clinics). The results are startling: Cipla offers Duovir-N, a combination of three generic anti-retroviral drugs, for two times as much in India as it does in Africa and almost one-and-a-half times as much than in Uganda. The price Cipla offers for Triomune, a combination of three generic anti-retroviral drugs, is three times as much in India as offered in Africa and two-and-a-half times as much as Cipla charges for the same drug in Uganda. Finally, the price Cipla offers for Efavir, a two-in-one anti-retroviral combination, is three times as much in India as offered in Africa or twice as much than Cipla charges in Uganda. Bottom line: All three of these potential lifesaving generic ARV combinations by Cipla are priced (or offered) at an average of two to three times less in Africa than they are priced (or offered) in India; as such, the steeper prices offered in India mean that fewer Indians can partake in the lifesaving benefits of these Indian-made AIDS medicines.

The letter also answers baseless assertions about AHF's connections to pharmaceutical companies: "Cipla has accused AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) of working for the multi-national drug companies ... AHF, a non-government organization, vigorously opposed high drug pricing from all pharmaceutical companies. In fact, AHF has sued several drug companies over the years to lower prices ... Gilead is one company that has worked closely with AHF and is one of many supporting our free ARV programs in the developing world. Nevertheless, we are strongly opposed to Gilead's application for patents in India ... It should be clear: AHF is not for sale to anyone, at any price."

In both public news articles in India and private correspondence with AHF over the past two weeks, Cipla officials have demanded a published public apology over the advocacy advertisement. With the demand, Cipla has also informed AHF that if no apology is published within seven (7) days, then it intends to sue AHF, an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides direct medical care and services to over 46,000 people with HIV/AIDS in 12 countries, for USD $25 million over the ad.

In response, AHF states: "Cipla is diverting attention away from its pricing in India and smearing AHF's good name in the process. Cipla wants to intimidate the one organization that has publicly criticized it by threatening to bankrupt us by demanding a billion rupees from AHF for supposed defamation ... We will not be silenced by threats. We will continue to fight for the lives of our 60,000 patients worldwide, including those in India.

Of the 2.5 million people now estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in India, approximately 85,000 are receiving lifesaving antiretroviral treatment. Cipla, the world's largest manufacturer of antiretroviral drugs to fight HIV/AIDS (as measured by units produced, distributed and sold-not overall revenue), is best-known for manufacturing economical generic anti-AIDS drugs used throughout Africa.

Detailing its extensive history of advocacy targeted at drug companies with the goal of lowering drug prices and increasing access to affordable HIV/AIDS medications, the letter ends with a challenge to Cipla to demonstrate the same sort of commitment to affordable drug access in for Indians in need as it does for Africa: "AHF is prepared to meet with Cipla anywhere, at any time to find a solution. The rest is up to Cipla."

To view the open letter print ad in its entirety, please visit:

History of AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Drug Pricing and Access Advocacy

Over the years AHF has had a long, outspoken and successful history of advocacy and outreach regarding AIDS drug pricing and access issues around the globe. This advocacy has often occurred via direct meetings and correspondence with drug company officials; through press conferences and press statements; via the filing of lawsuits; through lobbying government officials; via the mounting of protests and awareness campaigns; and through the placement of advertisements and calls to action, such as the current, "Profits at What Costs? AIDS Drugs for All," in India.

AHF's advocacy efforts have included:

-- Earlier this year, AHF mounted a similar print ad and awareness

campaign on AIDS drug pricing in Mexico. That campaign featured a print

ad, "AIDS Drug Prices to Die For," which ran in prominent papers in

Mexico and several US cities and targeted both Bristol Myers-Squibb

(BMS) and Merck (known as Merck Sharp & Dohme in Mexico). The two drug

companies are being targeted for charging four times as much in Mexico

for their key AIDS drugs Reyataz and Stocrin as they do in other Latin

American and middle-income countries. Mexico, which is classified as an

'upper middle-income' country, has a gross national income (GNI) of USD

$6,790 annually, while the average annual per person cost of

antiretroviral in the country is USD $8,000 (for treatments that can

cost as little as USD $150 in Africa), making these lifesaving AIDS

regimens all but unaffordable for nearly all those living with HIV/AIDS

in Mexico. The Mexico advocacy campaign is ongoing.

-- Over the past four years, AHF has targeted Abbott Laboratories

regarding several of its global AIDS drug pricing and access policies.

AHF is currently targeting Abbott for its recent cold-hearted and

punitive access policies in Thailand regarding its drug combination,

Kaletra. In January, the government of Thailand issued a compulsory

license for the manufacture and import of a generic version of the

drug; the move prompted Abbott to withdraw all new drugs, including

Aluvia, a heat-stable tablet formulation of Kaletra, from the official

governmental approval and registration process in Thailand. In July

2007, AHF praised the government of Brazil for negotiating a 30%

discount on Abbott's Kaletra. Brazil had also threatened to issue a

compulsory license for Kaletra. Separately, in 2004, AHF had protested

and filed a lawsuit against Abbott in response to a five-fold price

hike the company instituted on its AIDS drug, Norvir. The suit was

later settled.

-- AHF has repeatedly called on the pharmaceutical industry as a whole to

cut prices and increase access to AIDS therapies globally. In July

2006, AHF officials, who had earlier met with Gilead Sciences

executives, praised the drug company after Gilead announced plans to

reduce prices for its HIV/AIDS-related medications by two-thirds for

middle-income countries including Mexico.

-- AHF has also challenged British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in

long running campaigns via protests, press conferences and lawsuits.

Some actions targeted GSK over its patent claim and steep pricing on

AZT, the first AIDS drug. Other actions focused on GSK's global pricing

and access, particularly in Africa, and its partnership with Aspencare,

a generic drug manufacturer in South Africa (where AHF opened its first

global treatment clinic in 2001), which after several years hadn't

produced any generic GSK AIDS medications.

-- AHF also spoke out loudly when the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers

Association of South Africa and 39 pharmaceutical companies filed a

lawsuit against the government of South Africa when it approved a law

that would allow the country to import and manufacture cheaper generic

AIDS drugs. The drug industry's move was met with 'a groundswell of

public and government opposition,' which caused some of the 'largest

firms' involved in the case to, 'rethink their strategy,' according to

'The Guardian' newspaper. In April 2001, the drug companies agreed to

drop their lawsuit, a move that AHF praised.

-- Separately, AHF has targeted Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drug

company, over its reckless advertising and marketing for its erectile

dysfunction drug, Viagra. AHF hosted press conferences; issued press

statements; wrote and/or met with officials at the FDA and the FCC; and

filed a lawsuit over one of Pfizer's Viagra advertising campaigns,

which AHF believes encourage the non-medical use of the drug as a party

drug, and which AHF believes can contribute to increased risks for

exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. The campaign

is ongoing.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation currently provides free anti-retroviral treatment to people in need in India through its clinics in Mysore, New Delhi and in Guwahati, Assam under the AHF India Cares banner and in collaboration with the National AIDS Control Organization. In the Asia-Pacific region, AHF also operates free treatment clinics in Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia and China.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the nation's largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 61,000 individuals in 15 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at

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SOURCE AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.
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