Kenya to Get Cheap Aids Drugs

Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- Kenya's estimated 2.
3 million HIV/Aids sufferers may get access to cheap drugs by the end of June, the chairman of a parliamentary committee on health disclosed Thursday.
Dr Newton Kulundu told a lobby group that parliament was likely to pass next week a watershed bill allowing for the parallel importation of cheap drugs.
According to Kenyan parliamentary procedures, a bill gets the presidential assent turning it into law 14 days after it has been passed by parliament.
The Kenya Coalition for Access to Essential Medicines had presented Kulundu with some 50,000 signatures petitioning Members of Parliament to pass the bill when it comes up for debate.
Kenya's law which protects intellectual property rights also allows government to access cheaper medicine through internationally recognised mechanisms.
"I am sure that by the end of this month, we are going to be in a position to access the drugs.
Although some of my colleagues in parliament might oppose this bill, I believe that at the end of the day logic and common sense would prevail so that we can alleviate the suffering of Kenyans," Kulundu said after receiving the petition from the coalition.
It is estimated 700 Kenyans die daily from Aids-related illnesses.
Members of the coalition believe that many people continue to die of Aids because anti-retrovirals and other medicines are too expensive.
Although an Indian generic company, CIPLA, sells triple combinations of anti-retroviral to Cameroon and Nigeria at 350 dollars per patient per year, the situation in Kenya is pathetic.
The cheapest price negotiated by certain hospitals came to between 1,330 and 1,620 dollars per patient per year, well out of reach of the majority of HIV patients.
The Kenyan coalition is opposed to discount offers of HIV drugs by multinationals.
"Despite high profile publicity around multinational discount offers, these offers are no substitution for a legal system which will ensure long term sustainable access to affordable medicines.
"The company offers are only for Aids drugs and do not cover medicine for other life threatening diseases like TB and malaria," the coalition points out.
If parliament passes the bill, it would make Kenya the second African country to use legal channels in the war against Aids after South Africa.
"What I would like to tell Kenyans is that passing of this bill is no panacea to the Aids pandemic", Kulundu cautioned.
"We must continue stressing to our people the need to continue to exercise prevention measures.
We will also seek to have those intending to import (Aids drugs) registered so that we can monitor the quality of the imports," he said.

07 june 2001 22:25:00

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