China is close to inking a deal with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which will make a key AIDS drug available to poor patients in the country in the third quarter of this year.
The drug 3TC, considered a key component of the most effective cocktail therapies used in AIDS-stricken developing countries, is currently unaffordable for patients in China, which is battling a fast-spreading AIDS epidemic.
But Vice Minister of Health Wang Longde says Glaxo has agreed to sell the drug to the Chinese government at a reduced price.
As the drug is also effective in treating hepatitis B, which affects far more people in China than HIV/AIDS, the Chinese government will purchase the drug at the cheaper price and use it only on AIDS patients to alleviate Glaxo's fears of losing the hepatitis market.
If it's to be used against hepatitis B, the drug will still be sold at market price in China.
China's HIV/AIDS cases are growing at a rapid rate.
Health officials say China will continue negotiating with pharmaceutical companies to reduce the price of more drugs.
(CRI July 5, 2004)