Innovative Pricing Agreement Makes Second-line HIV Drugs More Affordable
More affordable second-line ARVs will soon be available following an innovative pricing agreement.

People living with HIV in low-and middle-income countries will soon have access to generic second-line antiretroviral drugs at a much cheaper price following an innovative agreement between Unitaid and the Clinton Health Access Initiative Inc (CHAI).

The new pricing agreement announced on Monday will see pharmaceutical company Hetero Labs manufacture a generic combination of darunavir boosted with ritonavir (DRV/r) for $210 per patient, per year, much cheaper than the well-established but suboptimal alternative option, lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r).

 “It is vital that all those living with HIV who cannot stay on first-line treatment have access to a quality second-line product, and we are proud of our work with CHAI to make this happen,” said Unitaid Executive Director Dr Philippe Duneton.

Less toxic than other protease inhibitors, Darunavir is also easier to take

Darunavir (DRV) in combination with ritonavir is a best-in-class protease inhibitor. DRV has proven to be effective in patients who have never been treated for HIV and those who have experienced multi-drug resistance. Less toxic than existing protease inhibitors used in second-line treatment,  DRV is also easier to take.

Despite being available in the United States and other high-income countries for over a decade, low- and middle-income countries still lack access to an affordable, quality generic version of the drug.  Second- and third-line therapies are however critical for people living with HIV where first-line treatment may not be an option, due to medication resistance or intolerance.

Until the announcement by Unitaid and CHAI, DRV/r was too expensive for national treatment programmes in low- and middle-income countries to afford.

Best-in-class second-line HIV treatment is long overdue

Kenly Sikwese, HIV advocate and head of the African Community Advisory Board (AfroCAB), which advocates for better, more affordable HIV medicine, welcomed the announcement saying the board had been advocating for the use of DRV in second-line since 2011, and that the new agreement was a critical step in addressing the “longstanding inequity in access to this optimal HIV treatment in low- and middle-income countries”.

“We look forward to seeing policymakers across the globe move expeditiously forward to accelerate access to this very important drug for communities.”

Joy Phumaphi, CHAI Interim Co-CEO, said access to this second-line HIV treatment is long overdue and people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries will now be able to access the same high-quality second-line medication as those in high-income countries, “enabling more patients to remain on treatment and save lives”. 

Image Credits: Commons Wikimedia.

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