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News in Brief

Indian Pediatrics 2001; 38: 568  

News in Brief

Drug Watch

Drug deals: Thirty-nine pharmaceutical countries filed a suit against the Government of South Africa when it decided to violate patent laws of anti-retroviral drugs. Drugs supplied by the multinationals were im-practicably costly while drug companies in India were willing to provide generic forms at extremely cheap prices. There was an inter-national outcry against the multinationals and bowing down to pressure several multinational companies have decided to drastically cut prices of anti-retroviral drugs for sub-Saharan Africa. Where the cost for Indinavir marketed by Merck in the USA is $ 6016 per patient per year, it will cost US$ 600/- per patient per year in Africa. Efavirenz will also cost only US$500/- a reduction of 55%. Bristol-Myers has also slashed prices of the combination of Didanosine and Stavudine to $1/- per day in an agreement with the United Nations. What is more important is that it has agreed not to go to court if cheaper generic versions are used in African countries ( eBMJ 24 March 2001, The Lancet Interactive 17 March 2001).

Disease Watch

Deadly measles: The recent encephalitis epidemic in February in Siliguri, West Bengal that killed at least 28 people including 2 doctors and 5 nurses has been confirmed to be due to a mutant measles virus. The clinical syndrome included encephalitis, renal failure with terminal pneumonia. The blood serology and antigen detection in brain samples were done in the National Institute of Virology, Pune. Similar epidemics in 1998 in Haryana, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh also due to mutant measles viruses were probably early warning symptoms of bigger threats to come (eBMJ 24 March 2001).

Vaccine Watch

AIDS vaccine: Most of the research in the development of a vaccine against AIDS has been for HIV subtype B while 84% of the strains isolated in India are of subtype C. Further no drug or vaccine can undergo clinical trials in India unless they have tested in the country of their origin or have been developed with the help of Indian researchers. So far attempts to tests various vaccines in India have hence been scuttled. Now the Health Ministry with the help of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative is planning to fund the development of a recombinant vaccine using the vaccinia Ankara strain and modifying it based on gene sequences of the Indian strain of HIV C. Phase I clinical trials should be ready in 2 years (eBMJ 31 March 2001).

Gouri Rao Passi,
Consultant, Pediatrics,
Choithram Hospital and Research Center,
Indore 452 001, India.
E-mail: passi@vsnl.com


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