UN GROUP CALLS FOR FIRMS TO SLASH PAEDIATRIC ARV PRICES IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

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The Executive Director of a UNAids -- a United Nations (UN) agency combating HIV/AIDS -- has called for drugmakers to reduce prices for paediatric antiretrovirals (ARVs) in sub-Saharan Africa. Although there are a number of effective treatments available for adults, paediatric formulations are much scarcer and tend to be prohibitively expensive.

Part of the problem, according to industry sources, lies in the fact that the market for children is much smaller than for adults, and the ethics for conducting clinical trials on minors are more complicated. Paediatric ARVs are six times more expensive than adult versions of the same drugs.

The US-based Clinton Foundation, founded by former president Bill Clinton, has agreed to supply Zimbabwe with paediatric ARVs. Currently there are no such formulations in the country, and children infected with HIV/AIDS are being forced to take formulations meant for adults. One leading local manufacturer has been forced to scrap plans to produce paediatric ARVs due to Zimbabwe's imploding economy and a shortage of foreign currency.