Three pharmaceutical firms said Monday they support continued efforts by a Canadian generic drug maker to distribute cheaper versions of their patented HIV/AIDS medicines in Rwanda.
GlaxoSmithKline and the Canadian subsidiaries of Shire and Boehringer Ingelheim had two years ago authorized Canadian generic drug maker Apotex to export to Rwanda a "fixed dose triple combination antiretroviral medicine" containing drugs over which each held patent rights in Canada.
In statements, each company reconfirmed their support for Canada's so-called Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) that allows the manufacture of the medicine in Canada.
Over the past year, Canada's Apotex has sent two shipments of the generic triple-combination AIDS drug to treat for 21,000 people living with HIV in Rwanda, the only country to have so far benefited from CAMR.
The company threatened last month to abandon the project, saying it was a too "costly and complicated process."
A shipment amounts to only one year's supply and then "the process under CAMR would have to be completely restarted if Rwanda needs to reorder more of the same medicine or if any other developing country wanted to place an order."
"So far, no other developing country has indicated it wishes to jump through the hoops imposed by CAMR," Apotex said.
The company called for the CAMR rules to be simplified.
In 2004, Canada became the first industrialized country to modify its drug patent legislation to permit the export of generic drugs to developing nations in need, implementing a 2003 World Trade Organization agreement on patents.