- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

NEW YORK — Former President Bill Clinton announced yesterday that he has persuaded four foreign generic-drug companies to provide low-cost drugs to AIDS patients in Africa and the Caribbean.

In an ambitious program, believed to be the first of its kind, the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative also plans to overhaul the health care systems of the countries involved, including preparation of budgets, hiring staff and disseminating the drugs.

“It means we will be able to deliver lifesaving medicines to people who desperately need them,” Mr. Clinton said at a news conference in his Harlem office.

The drug companies — Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., Cipla Ltd. and Matrix Laboratories Ltd. of India and Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. of South Africa — will cut their prices for AIDS drugs to be distributed in Rwanda, Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa and several Caribbean nations.

The deal slashes the price of a popular triple-drug regimen by a third, to about 38 cents a day per patient, and will be funded partially by Canada and Ireland. Canada is expected to make a significant donation and Ireland has already committed $58.3 million over five years, mainly to Mozambique.

Mr. Clinton said that fewer than 50,000 people will receive the drugs in the countries his foundation is working in, but he expects that figure to rise to 2 million in the next five years. He emphasized that none of the money would go to him.

“This is a straight-up business deal that has been worked over very carefully,” he said. Mr. Clinton added that he personally did much of the lobbying himself with the help of long-time Clinton aide Ira Magaziner.

He told the Wall Street Journal, “Usually, I just call the prime minister or the president and tell them what we’re doing and ask them to have somebody look at it. And I always tell them that even though we’re friends, they don’t have to do this for me, don’t do it unless they think it’s a good thing.”

The former president insisted that he was not trying to upstage President Bush’s $15 billion AIDS program, which has yet to obtain congressional budget authorization. He said he would welcome money from the Bush program.

The Arkansas Democrat said last June that he did not do enough in his second presidential term to stem the spread of AIDS, even though his administration distributed a billion condoms to countries most affected by AIDS.

Mr. Clinton said there are 42 million people in the world infected with the AIDS virus, 6 million of whom need immediate medical care. In the Caribbean, the foundation is working with nine countries and three territories where, according to the Clinton staff, more than 90 percent of people afflicted with AIDS live.

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