Surviving AIDS

HIV/AIDS drug prices in India come down

Published: Saturday 31 December 2005

the survival rate of hiv -infected people in India has increased, courtesy a 20-fold drop in the price of the anti-retroviral drugs in the country. This is suggested by a recent study by Y R Gaitonde of Centre for aids Research and Education (yrg care), a Chennai-based non-governmental organisation, and Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. The study was published in the November 2005 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, a medical journal.

Researchers led by Nagalingeswaran Kumarasamy, chief medical officer, yrg care, Chennai, found that in 1996 only 13 per cent of the Indian hiv patients who re-qualified for anti-retroviral therapy (art) could afford the treatment, due to the high costs. But in 2000, this number increased to 22 per cent, further rising to 44 per cent in 2003. "The number of individuals seeking treatment for hiv infection had increased as the cost of the drug art decreased 20-fold after the introduction of generic art in India in 2000," say the researchers. They claimed introducing generic art had led to a massive fall in the treatment cost -- from us $778 to us $100 per month. In 2003, the price further declined. The drop helped many Indians get regular treatment for hiv/aids, increasing their survival rate. It was found that death rates decreased from 25 to five deaths per 100 persons between 1997 and 2003.

More than five million people in India are estimated to suffer from hiv infection. According to Kumarasamy, in the future, a further drop in the price of art could be expected in India. "Besides that, voluntary counselling centres are being set up in public hospitals and also in centres providing medical attention to high hiv risk people," he says. These centres would provide counselling before and after hiv test and also on hiv care.

Bikram Kumar Saha, coordinator of hiv/aids and assistant professor of medicine at the North Bengal Medical College Hospital, Darjeeling, says, "The drop in the price of art has certainly helped the poor of India. In near future, everybody in the country would be able to access art ." However, he cautions, "Low price may lead to indiscriminate and unjustified use of anti-retroviral drugs so proper supervision is necessary to check misuse of the drugs. All drugs have specific adverse effects thus they should be taken only under strict medical supervision."

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