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Report: Glaxo May Slash AZT Price

March 5, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Under pressure from public health officials, Glaxo Wellcome PLC has decided to slash the price of the AIDS drug AZT for pregnant women in poor countries by as much as 75 percent, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

The company is expected to unveil the plan today, the Journal said.

The announcement comes two weeks after a new study showed that a small dose of AZT administered for just a few weeks before birth often can prevent transmission of the AIDS virus from infected mothers to their newborns.

The Glaxo plan would be the first time a giant drug company has cut the price of an AIDS drug in order to get it to the developing nations most affected by the disease.

About 600,000 children worldwide died last year of AIDS contracted from their mothers.

In 1994, researchers found that giving AZT to pregnant women infected with HIV for several months prior to birth could reduce transmission of the virus to infants by two-thirds. In U.S. hospitals, where that long course of AZT therapy is now standard practice, it costs between $800 and $1,000.

Two weeks ago, researchers in Thailand found that a shorter treatment _ just three weeks of AZT pills given to women daily _ reduced transmission by half. That report prompted Glaxo to cut its price, according to the Journal.

Officials from UN-AIDS, a United Nations agency, had urged the company to consider such a discount.

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