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Roche offers HIV drug expertise to poor nations

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche announced transfer technology to generic drug manufacturers in the least developed countries and sub-Saharan Africa// to produce versions of the HIV drug saquinavir.

As part of its new Technology Transfer Initiative, Roche has announced further expansion of its current activities within sub-Saharan Africa and the world's Least Developed Countries by providing local manufacturers with the technical expertise for producing generic HIV medicines.

These countries are home for 69 percent of the HIV/AIDS population in the world.

Saquinavir is a protease inhibitor, one of a class of drugs that work by blocking part of the virus and preventing it from replicating itself.

Protease inhibitors are used in combination with other anti-HIV drugs in so-called treatment cocktails, which aim to reduce the amount of HIV in the body.

AIDS campaigners have been pushing drug companies to offer second-line treatment at lower prices, following discounts offered on the first-line products.

Roche said it would make its HIV protease inhibitors Invirase and Viracept available at no-profit prices for direct supplies from Roche Basel to LDCs and sub-Saharan Africa.

The transfer of expertise model will be based on the processes to manufacture saquinavir, the HIV protease inhibitor medicine recommended by the World Health Organization as a second line treatment in resource-limited settings.

William M. Burns, CEO Division Roche Pharmaceuticals, said, "With international funding now available, Africa will be the world's biggest user of HIV medicine. We have taken this unique step to help ensure that the right medicines in the right formulation are locally available. We want to use the knowledge we have developed to help strengthen local manufacturing capability and hope to help as many manufacturers as possible in these hardest hit countries by sharing our knowledge, so that they can l
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