Sunday, July 22, 2007

Strategic planning

"Last month, Roche Pharmaceuticals announced a global recall of its HIV/AIDS drug Viracept, after discovering that some batches had been contaminated with a carcinogen during a flawed manufacturing process at its Swiss plant.

Patients should immediately discontinue the drug and switch to other medicines, Roche said, noting that the recall affected "Europe and some other world regions."

In Europe the recall cause little stir, since the drug has mostly fallen out of use, replaced by newer, more expensive alternatives. But tens of thousands of people take Viracept worldwide, most of them poor people with AIDS in developing countries.

And in places, newer substitutes are not available to patients, either because they are not licensed or are substantially more expensive, said people with HIV and international health experts. In Panama, for example, a substitute drug, Kaletra, costs ten times as much as Viracept.This has left patients with the painful choice of discontinuing a lifesaving medicine, or using a drug that might contain a dangerous contaminant.

Roche, which had revenues of 42 billion Swiss francs, or $35 billion, last year, said it would cover the "reasonable costs" of the recall, but so far, patients or HIV treatment programs have had to make up the difference in cost." (thanks yasmine)

Is it only me or does this sound like a plan to scare people away from cheap drugs and force them to buy the expensive stuff? Another conspiracy against the poor? Read the IHT article, apparently, Roche hasn't been very helpful in providing information that would help safeguard public health.

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