Cost-Effective Treatment Possible In Africa For HIV-Positive Pregnant Women If Drug Prices Lowered

Reducing the high rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission in Sub-Saharan Africa through treatment with antiviral drugs can be cost-effective if drug prices are lowered, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco AIDS Research Institute (ARI).

Study findings showed other factors combined to produce a cost-effective outcome--such as a short-course of drug therapy and a high prevalence of HIV-positive women of child-bearing age--but drug prices had the most impact. The UCSF team found drug costs need to be about 25 percent of current prices in the industrialized world.

The UCSF team conducted an economic analysis of different treatment regimens of antiviral drug combinations among women in Sub-Saharan Africa. The regimens currently are part of UNAIDS-sponsored clinical trials in Africa that are directed at determining effectiveness in preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission, which AIDS specialists also call vertical transmission.

"The goal in our research was to determine under what circumstances, if any, this might be a good investment compared with other uses of funds for HIV prevention in low-income countries," said Elliot Marseille, DrPH, MPP, UCSF senior research associate and lead investigator of the study.

"When we did this study, we had to make educated guesses about how effective this therapy is likely to be. In the meantime, results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-sponsored trial in Thailand have shown that a short-course of the antiviral drug AZT alone can cut vertical transmission by about half," he added.

Glaxo Wellcome also has announced its plan to reduce AZT prices for vertical transmission prevention in low-income countries to about 25 percent of industrial world prices, according to Marseille. "These events open the way for large-scale drug interventions because we now know that these therapies can make

Contact: Corinna Kaarlela
(415) 476-3804
University of California - San Francisco

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