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Significant quantities of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to treat HIV/AIDS have been procured for Sub-Saharan Africa for the first time in their 20-year history. This presents a novel opportunity to empirically study the roles of brand and generic suppliers in providing access to ARVs.

An observational study of brand and generic supply based on a dataset of 2,162 orders of AIDS drugs for Sub-Saharan Africa reported to the Global Price Reporting Mechanism at the World Health Organization from January 2004-March 2006 was performed. Generic companies supplied 63% of the drugs studied, at prices that were on average about a third of the prices charged by brand companies. 96% of the procurement was of first line drugs, which were provided mostly by generic firms, while the remaining 4%, of second line drugs, was sourced primarily from brand companies. 85% of the generic drugs in the sample were manufactured in India, where the majority of the drugs procured were ineligible for patent protection. The remaining 15% was manufactured in South Africa, mostly under voluntary licenses provided by brand companies to a single generic company. In Sub-Saharan African countries, four first line drugs in the dataset were widely patented, however no general deterrent to generic purchasing based on a patent was detected.

Generic and brand companies have played distinct roles in increasing the availability of ARVs in Sub-Saharan Africa. Generic companies provided most of the drugs studied, at prices below those charged by brand companies, and until now, almost exclusively supplied several fixed-dose combination drugs. Brand companies have supplied almost all second line drugs, signed voluntary licenses with generic companies, and are not strictly enforcing patents in certain countries. Further investigation into how price reductions in second line drugs can be achieved and the cheapest drugs can actually be procured is warranted.



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