Resources/Global Fund
UN-IRIN: 21 October 2002, AFRICA: Global Fund seeks proposals with cheaper drugs

JOHANNESBURG, 21 October (IRIN) - In a move designed to let the Global Fund's money go further, the fund will soon require countries applying for grants to buy the lowest price anti-AIDS drugs, whether they are patented or generic.

At the Fund's recent board meeting, the board had approved the use of drugs on the World Health Organization's (WHO) list of approved drugs and drug makers. Any drug on the list qualified automatically, the Fund's spokeswoman, Mariangela Bavicchi told PlusNews.

"It's not that we are encouraging countries to buy generic drugs but it is important that the drugs correspond to the international requirements and they are reasonably priced," she said.

The list released in March this year included 11 antiretroviral drugs and five drugs for opportunistic infections. Of the total, 26 came from major manufacturers and 10 were from leading Indian generic drug producer, Cipla. The company was one of the first generic manufacturers to offer cheaper AIDS drugs to African governments.

Fund director Dr Richard Feachem was quoted by media reports as saying that the body would encourage developing countries to buy cheap generic medicines instead of expensive brand-name ones.

According to a report by the New York Times, under the Fund's new plan, applicants will be required to do the following things in order to receive a grant: purchase the cheapest drug available, buy only drugs in which quality is guaranteed and comply with international and national laws.

Of the 30 million people with the HI virus in Africa, it is estimated that only 30,000 are getting antiretroviral drugs. The Fund's decision could open the way for generic drug manufacturers in India, Brazil and other countries to sell far more of their products in Africa, undercutting the prices of major American and European drug makers.

"Its not a question of trying to favour generics. The Fund decided to look for products at the lowest prices, but that are also consistent with national and international laws," Dr Eric Noehrenberg of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (IFPMA), told PlusNews. IFPMA represents the research-based pharmaceutical industry.

Meanwhile donors will need to double their contributions to the Fund next year in order to meet the anticipated increase of health programmes offering effective responses to the epidemics, the Fund said in a statement earlier this month.

To date, US $2.1 billion has been pledged to the Global Fund over the next five years. "In 2003, the Global Fund's needs will grow an additional $2 billion to finance the increasing number of worthy proposals. In 2004, $4.6 billion more will be required," the statement said.

As of 10 October, $483 million of the pledged $2.1 billion had been transferred into the Global Fundís account, it added.

A second round of proposals is currently underway and grants will be awarded in January 2003.