Africa, Caribbean to Get Cheaper AIDS Tests & Drugs

By Larry Fine

Five leading medical technology companies have agreed to make major cuts in their prices of HIV and AIDS laboratory tests for millions of people in Africa and the Caribbean, former U.S. President Bill Clinton announced on Wednesday.

The agreement will lower test costs by as much as 80 percent, said Clinton, whose foundation is working in 16 countries and territories to set up care, treatment and AIDS prevention programs.

“Such a big savings means we can treat many more people with the same amount of money,” Clinton said.

The companies involved are Bayer Diagnostics, a unit of German drug maker Bayer, Beckman Coulter Inc., Becton, Dickinson & Co., French firm bioMerieux and Roche Diagnostics, a division of Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG .

Clinton said the companies were absorbing upfront costs to provide expensive equipment to the developing countries, and were banking on the long-term volume of tests to avoid losing money in the venture.

This marked the second major price-reduction agreement negotiated by the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative. In October, Clinton announced that four generic drug companies would offer deep discounts in the price of antiretroviral drugs for use in developing countries.

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