Apotex, a Canadian drug maker is set to export triple combination antiretroviral medicines to Rwanda after three big pharmaceutical firms agreed to support the manufacture of cheaper versions of their original ARV drugs.
According to media reports, the companies include GlaxoSmithKline, the Canadian subsidiaries of Shire and Boehringer Ingelheim.
“In statements, each company reconfirmed their support for Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR), an entity that allows the manufacture of the medicine in Canada,” reports said.
Canada’s Apotex has so far sent two shipments of the generic triple-combination AIDS drug to treat 21,000 people living with HIV in Rwanda, the only country to have so far benefited from CAMR.
This is in spite of reports last month that the company had threatened to abandon the project, saying it was a too “costly and complicated a process.”
In relation to this development, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, said that Rwanda will procure the generic drugs as long as they have been authorised by the World Health Organisation.
“These drugs are not manufactured only for Rwanda, but for developing countries in general. Government purchases these drugs through an open market – CAMERWA.
They will therefore compete on the market just like the other manufacturing companies do.
“Once our procurement arm (CAMERWA) authorises to purchase them, then we will indeed have them,” Binagwaho told The New Times in a phone interview.
In 2004, Canada became the first industrialized country to modify its drug patent legislation to permit the export of generic drugs to developing nations in need, implementing a 2003 World Trade Organization agreement on patents.