Drugs that fight AIDS have become, in recent years, more promising, more effective, and more expensive. And that last point makes the first two points frustratingly moot.
But, the fight against AIDS and HIV has just landed another first: For the first time, a maker of AIDS drugs will allow its expensive medicine to be made by generic drug companies. Foster City-based Gilead Sciences, long the leader in making drugs to fight AIDS, says it will let four of its drugs get sold for less money.
This is potentially huge news for the more than 30 million people around the world who have AIDS, especially those in poor countries like Africa. In all, we’re told that something near 100 countries will get the cheaper generic drugs. Up until now, those drugs have only been sold in wealthier countries able to afford them. Gilead has been extremely successful with its drug portfolio, as evidenced by its profitability, and steadily rising stock price. Interestingly, on the morning the company announced that it will take less money for its drugs, Gilead’s stock price (GILD) was, as of last check, up.
Those who fight AIDS around the world call Gilead’s move a good first step. Yes, this will potentially put the drugs into millions of new hands – hands that previously had to wait years to get them. The group Doctors Without Borders, for example, says the plan doesn’t go far enough, because certain middle-income countries will not participate. It will be interesting to see if this new deal makes a big dent in the spread of the disease, and, if so, if it becomes an industry standard.
Scott can be found on Twitter: @scottbudman