12 September 2018 | Statements

Drug price cut will expand access to a key treatment for HIV coinfections

GENEVA – Unitaid welcomes the announcement by Gilead Sciences, Inc. that it will cut the price of the WHO-recommended drug AmBisome® to treat cryptococcal meningitis, an opportunistic infection that is responsible for 15 percent of the world’s HIV-related deaths.

This safer form of an older medicine, amphotericin B, will be available to 116 low- and middle-income countries at the new price of $16.25 per 50mg/vial. Unitaid collaborated on Gilead’s initiative to expand access to the drug.

“Gilead’s announcement is a critical step forward in reducing deaths among people living with HIV in less affluent countries,” Unitaid Deputy Executive Director Philippe Duneton said. “Unitaid will continue to work with manufacturers and partners to make sure these treatments are affordable and available to people living with HIV in countries most in need.”

In March, WHO recommended AmBisome® as part of a new, shorter regimen for cryptococcal meningitis, citing the regimen’s success in reducing deaths. Cryptococcal meningitis kills 181,000 people with HIV every year. Access to treatment for the infection is low, and the best regimens are not available.

People living with HIV face life-threatening opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis and meningitis because they are not on antiretroviral therapy, their treatment is inadequate, or their treatment has been interrupted.

In 2017, 940,000 people died of HIV-related illnesses. Following WHO guidelines on advanced HIV disease, Unitaid is working with pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies to increase access to the best tests, treatments and prophylaxis to prevent deaths from HIV coinfections.

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