MSF URGES ABBOTT TO MAKE NEW ARV FORMULATION AVAILABLE IN AFRICA

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The France-based humanitarian group Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders, or MSF) has petitioned U.S. drugmaker Abbott Laboratories to make its new HIV/AIDS formulation of Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) accessible in Africa. The new version of the drug, said MSF, has critical advantages for patients in poorer countries, namely a lower daily pill count, the ability to be stored without refrigeration and limited dietary restrictions.

In response to the group's request, Abbott said that it was pursuing registration for the drug in developing countries. Kaletra, a second-line therapy that can be used when other antiretroviral (ARV) treatments fail, was approved by the U.S. FDA in October 2005, but it is not yet available in any third-world countries.

MSF, which provides ARVs for more than 60,000 people in nine countries, noted that last year, 6 percent of these patients needed to switch to second-line therapy after three years of standard ARV treatment.