Accra Mail (Accra)

9 November 2000

Ghana: Glaxo Wellcome Stops AIDS Drug Import to Ghana

Accra — Glaxo Wellcome, the multi national drug manufacturer with a worldwide distribution network, has won a case to effectively stop a rival company in India from temporarily exporting the promising anti-AIDS drug Duovir into Ghana.

The company alleges that Cipla, an Indian pharmaceutical company, has been exporting a brand of Duovir tablets into Ghana in violation of its patent to the new drug. Cipla is much respected for its achievements in the medical world. It is leading a crusade to the discovery of new techniques in the treatment of some life threatening diseases including the development of anti-cancer drugs and medical aerosols for asthma. Its product for hypertension, serpinoid, penetrated the American market in 1946, and five years later Cipla entered into an agreement with a Swiss firm to manufacture some of its newly developed drugs.

The drug industry was rocked by scandals of fake drug imports in recent times but the case between Glaxo Wellcome and Cipla is that of patent violation, which industry watchers believe will soon be resolved.

The sole importer of Duovir tablets to Ghana, Healthcare Services Limited has not made any public comment on the issue but there are indications that it will respect the right of Glaxo Wellcome.

Duovir is a fixed-dose combination of two drugs that proves as most useful formula and provides comfort for AIDS patients and improves their health and those living with the AIDS virus.

Health experts say an earlier trial of the drug has shown that it has good efficacy and tolerability in clinical tests. Duovir has an advantage over other anti-AIDS drugs. Unlike other anti-AIDS drugs whose administration is complex, doctors ensure that Duovir is taken without compromise and most importantly it improves the patient's compliance since there is no reduction in the number of pills that the patient takes each day.

Meanwhile, the temporary ban on the importation of the life-saving drug into Ghana has dashed the hope of AIDS patients who depend on the drug to improve their health and to prolong their life. Some doctors believe Duovir holds the key to the future discovery for a cure for AIDS. In most developing countries AIDS has become the number one killer and has threatened the survival and sustenance of economic systems as millions of economically active people die from the AIDS scourge.

There are other anti-AIDS drugs on the Ghanaian market including Cambivir that is relatively expensive. A patient on Cambivir spends about ¢1 million a month which most Ghanaians cannot afford and as a result many AIDS sufferers now turn to herbal treatment which is somewhat cheaper.

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