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Global health

Roche initiative seeks to expand access to HIV viral load tests

An initiative by Roche to slash prices for its HIV viral load test in developing countries will boost access to the test, used to monitor the effects of antiretroviral drug therapy, according to UNAIDS.

“The new initiative creates a ceiling price of US$9.40 per test, and will reduce Roche’s average price by more than 40%,” the organisation said after the initiative was announced on 25 September 2014 during a panel on AIDS held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Roche has committed to expanding access to its AmpliPrep/COBAS TaqMan HIV–1 Test version 2.0 through a special pricing scheme in eligible countries.

Alan Staple, head of global markets at the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), which helped broker the Roche scheme, said that about 4 million viral load tests are done in developing nations, including 2.5 million in South Africa. “We expect that total to grow to over 11 million by the end of 2017,” he said.

High prices have been a major factor in why less than 25% of people on antiretroviral therapy currently have access to the tests, UNAIDS said.

CHAI’s Staple said there is no standard pricing for the tests, which are sold by Roche, Abbott and BioMerieux at prices ranging from US$10.50 to US$60 in low and middle income countries. “We believe the weighted average price outside of South Africa to be about US$20 per test.”

Sharonann Lynch, HIV/TB adviser for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), added: “Affordable tests have been the missing piece to detecting and preventing HIV treatment failure.” 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20066688

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