Since 1981, AIDS, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), has resulted in an estimated 39 million deaths1.
Even though infection rates have declined in recent years, there are still about two million new infections occurring every year1. About 37 million people currently are infected with HIV1. About 26 million of these individuals live in sub-Saharan Africa1. According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) new recommendations, to treat all people living with HIV and offer antiretrovirals (ARV) as an additional prevention choice for people at "substantial" risk, the number of people eligible for ARV treatment is 36.7 million, but less than half (46%) receive it1.
In 2000, the cost to supply one person living with HIV/AIDS with a year's supply of recommended ARV medicines averaged about $10,000 – a virtual death sentence for most people living in the developing world2. Since then, generic competition, bulk purchase agreements and innovation have dramatically reduced drug costs. Importantly, Mylan helped ensure, beginning in 2009, that patients in developing countries had access to the same standard of care as patients in high-income settings: a single pill, once per day. Prices for that regimen have steadily fallen, from more than $300 in 2009 to just under $100 today.
Today, nearly 50% of people in the developing world being treated for HIV/AIDS depend on a Mylan ARV product3.
But it's not only about cost. In developing countries where electricity is unpredictable, refrigeration tends to be scarce. HIV/AIDS, on the other hand, may be all too common. For the millions living with HIV/AIDS in places such as sub-Saharan Africa, a lack of refrigeration once meant a lack of access to ARV medicines.
This is because one of the three different medicines required for one important HIV/AIDS treatment regimen, breaks down if not refrigerated.
The question we asked was, "Can we make an affordable, heat-stable version of that medicine accessible in sufficient quantities to people in the developing world?" The answer was "yes."
We developed a high quality generic version of the medicine. Not only is it heat-stable (like its brand name counterpart), but it's also approved by the WHO as part of a second-line treatment option for people who have developed a resistance to first-line HIV/AIDS treatment. Today, the medicine is available in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin and Central America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.
Our efforts allowed us to increase access to this high quality medicine and at the same time fulfil a commitment we made to former President Bill Clinton to lower the price of second-line treatment for HIV/AIDS in developing countries.
1 World Health Organisation HIV/AIDS fact sheet updated July 2016
2 Yazdam Yazdanpanah: Costs associated with combination antiretroviral therapy in HIV-infected patients. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. (2004); 53:558-561.
3 Mylan in-house data