In a significant development to help treat HIV/AIDS patients in India, U.S. pharmaceutical giant, MSD (Merck & Co), a leading player in HIV innovative treatment, and Cipla, the Indian pharmaceutical major, entered into an India-specific strategic partnership under which Cipla will have a non-exclusive licence to market, promote and distribute MSD’s Raltegravir 400 mg tablet under a different brand name in India.

Raltegravir was launched by MSD India in November 2010.

The access to Raltegravir is important for patients who require it as part of third-line salvage regimen where there are few options left. Interestingly, for over a decade, Cipla has taken on multinational pharma companies by making anti-retroviral drugs at a fraction of the cost.

Access

Speaking to The Hindu, Jaideep Gogtay, Chief Medical Officer, Cipla, said, “the main benefit will be providing access to patients here using our extensive reach. It is a new class of drug and acts differently from currently available drugs. It is likely to be introduced by mid-2014”.

Responding to a questionnaire, K. G. Ananthakrishnan, Managing Director, MSD in India, said “MSD is committed to responsible, India-specific pricing that we have followed for all our products, including Isentress (raltegravir) in India”.

Raltegravir supplied in India was made at MSD’s facility in Singapore and packaging was done at MSD’s site in Australia, he said.

The number of people living with HIV/AIDS in India is estimated at around 20.9 lakh in 2011, according to NACO (National AIDS Control Organization) figures. Wider access to anti-retroviral therapy has led to 29 per cent reduction in estimated annual AIDS-related deaths during 2007-11.

Raltegravir belongs to Integrase inhibitor category. Treatment of HIV involves giving 2-3 drugs of different categories in combination so that the virus is adequately suppressed. However, over a period, the virus develops resistance to these drugs and there is a need to rework the regimen to include newer or potent drugs.

Third-line regimens should include new drugs with minimal risk of cross-resistance to previously used regimens, Mr. Ananthakrishnan said.

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