STOCRIN PRICE CUT COULD SIGNAL MORE REDUCTIONS

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The recent price reduction of Merck's HIV/AIDS antiretroviral (ARV) Stocrin -- a drug used by approximately 70,000 people each day in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda -- may push other drugmakers to lower their ARVs, according to local reports. Merck announced the reduction, which offers a 20 percent price cut to patients in developing countries, in early March. The United Nations' UNAIDS program has noted that further price cuts are needed in order to achieve universal access to the ARVs by 2010.

Critics of price cuts by large companies like Merck, however, claim that even with the reduction, the majority of third-world citizens still lack the financial ability to afford such medication. In lieu of future reductions by major companies, the alternative, critics suggest, is to make cheaply priced generics more widespread. Currently, the only recognized generic maker in eastern Africa is Kenya's Cosmos, which was licensed two years ago to manufacture generic versions of ARVs made by GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer-Ingelheim.