JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has granted a generic drug manufacturer a license to produce and market three key AIDS medicines in South Africa, a Glaxo official said Sunday.
Under the deal, to be officially announced Monday, the South African company Aspen Pharmacare would be allowed to sell its versions of the widely used AIDS drugs AZT, 3TC and Combivir to the public health system and to nonprofit groups in South Africa, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The deal does not allow Aspen to sell the medicines to any other countries in Africa.
The issue of access to AIDS medication has grown since more than three dozen drug companies, including Glaxo, sued the government of South Africa over a law many said would allow the government to import or produce generic versions of the drugs over the companies’ objections.
The companies dropped the suit in April under tremendous public pressure.
Before the agreement with Aspen, Glaxo was already offering its AIDS drugs to South Africa’s public health system at cost for about $2 a day for Combivir, a combination of 3TC and AZT. But the government said that even that price would bankrupt the health department.
As part of the agreement, Glaxo and Shire Pharmaceuticals, which hold the patents on the medicines, will charge a 30 percent licensing fee to Aspen, South Africa’s largest generic drug manufacturer. That money will be earmarked for nonprofit organizations fighting HIV and AIDS, the Glaxo official said.
An estimated 4.7 million South Africans are HIV-positive _ some 11 percent of the population.