[Ip-health] Sarah Bosely blog in the Guardian: HIV babies' lives at risk in drug giant's plans to close factory, claim NGOs

thiru at keionline.org thiru at keionline.org
Mon Jun 7 01:37:35 PDT 2010


HIV babies' lives at risk in drug giant's plans to close factory, claim NGOs

Aids organisations are alarmed by plans from pharmaceutical company
Bristol Myers Squibb to  suspend the manufacture of a vital HIV drug

Hard to imagine a pharmaceutical company could so comprehensively shoot
itself in the foot, but apparently, the drug giant Bristol Myers Squibb is
about to shut down a factory in France that makes the only cheap Aids drug
that can keep up to 7,000 babies alive in the developing world. Just
imagine the headlines.

Do tell us it is not true, Bristol Myers Squibb. But so far, your chief
executive Lamberto Andreotti has not even acknowledged a letter of protest
from some of the board members of UNITAID - which tries to facilitate
access to Aids drugs in poor countries.

So in the absence of any response, these board members, who represent NGOs
and communities affected by HIV/Aids on the board of the Geneva-based
organisation, are going public today with their letter to you. In case it
has been lost in the post after all, this is what they say:

["]Dear Mr Andreotti,

We, the UNITAID board members representing NGOs, and Communities affected
by HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, are writing to you to express our deep
concern that Bristol-Myers Squibb is to close a factory in France that
manufactures a second line anti-retroviral medicine for children infected
with HIV/AIDS who weigh less than 10 kg: buffered didanosine (ddI) in the
25 mg formulation.

Closing this factory means that 4,000 to 7,000 babies currently enrolled
in treatment plans in developing countries through UNITAID could be left
without the medicines they need. Didanosine is the last therapeutic option
for these babies and without it they may die. We understand that closure
of the plant will take place in June of this year, with no plans for
resumption of production before April of 2011 at the earliest when a new
plant is due to open. Therefore there is likely to be a shortage of
approximately 15,000 packs of ddI 25 mg, across all UNITAID beneficiary
countries between now and when production is expected to resume in April
2011. Currently, there is no alternative generic product that has been
assessed by WHO and prequalified for use by UN agencies.

We urge you, as the Chief Executive Officer of BMS, a company that prides
itself on its high standards of corporate responsibility, to respond
urgently to our concerns, outlining the steps you will take to avoid any
treatment interruption. We would also like your confirmation that a BMS
plant will resume production of this vital medicine in 2011.

We look forward to hearing from you.["]

In fact, we all look forward to hearing from you. Please tell us it isn't


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)
thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

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