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AIDS Survival Rate Rises in China
The chances of survival for Chinese AIDS patients and HIV carriers are climbing as the central government's efforts to provide cheap and effective medicines begin to yield results.

Official sources quoted by Xinhua said that imported anti-AIDS drugs are expected to become exempt from customs taxes in the near future in order to lessen the financial burden on AIDS patients.

Though the report did not reveal any details about the tax exemption, it said the policies are expected to greatly reduce the price of the drugs.

Reports said major international AIDS drug manufacturers are also expected to lower their drug prices in China following negotiations with related governmental departments.

Besides imported drugs, a series of anti-AIDS medicines manufactured by domestic companies is also on the market.

Sources with the State Drug Administration (SDA) said priority would be given to domestically made anti-AIDS drugs during the examination and approval process, so as to speed up public access to the drugs and shorten waiting times for anxious patients.

Zidovudine, also known as AZT, first got approval from the SDA in early August. It is manufactured by the Northeast China Pharmaceutical Group Company.

Other related medicines such as Didanosine (DDI) and Stavudine (D4T), which are produced by Shanghai DESANO Pharmaceutical Group and the Northeast China Pharmaceuticals Group Company, also got approval from the SDA recently, according to a CCTV report.

All three are crucial parts of the effective "cocktail'' therapy.

"It only took 7.5 months for the domestic legal imitation of AZT to be approved after its initial application,'' said Chen Gang, general manager of Northeast China Pharmaceuticals Group Company.

Undoubtedly, AIDS patients and HIV carriers will directly benefit from the medicines and the new policies.

The price of AIDS drugs on the international market is about US$10,000 a year while the price of domestically made drugs is only 5 to 7 per cent of that amount -- about US$360 or so.

The lower price "will enable most AIDS patients to afford continuous treatment,'' Chen said.

Before the debut of the Chinese made AZT, all anti-AIDS medicines were imported according to World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations concerning intellectual property rights. They were too expensive for most ordinary AIDS patients.

According to a survey conducted by CCTV, less than 5 per cent of AIDS patients could afford treatment before the legal imitation AZT was approved.

SDA sources said clinical research on three other legal imitation medicines -- Indinavir, Efavirenz and Nelfinavir, also produced by Shanghai DESANO Pharmaceutical Group -- will be available by the end of 2002.

"More and more patients will benefit from the programme,'' the sources said.

The total number of AIDS patients and HIV carriers is estimated at 40 million worldwide and 95 per cent of them live in developing countries.

As of the first half of 2002, the number of people reported to have AIDS or be infected with the HIV virus in China reached 1 million.

(People's Daily October 11, 2002)

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