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Monday, March 4, 2024

MSF says HIV drug deal on ice over pharma firm’s price secrecy

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Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Thursday a deal aimed to bring long-term preventative HIV treatment to vulnerable populations was on hold after the drugmaker imposed pricing confidentiality.

In a statement, MSF called on ViiV Healthcare, to withdraw unacceptable conditions suddenly added to a long-negotiated purchase agreement for the preventative HIV drug cabotegravir long-acting (CAB-LA).

These conditions, including a confidentiality clause on the drug’s price and supply terms, “are not acceptable in MSF purchase agreements”, the statement said.

MSF warned that the new conditions were holding up its procurement of the drug, which it said was the most effective form of HIV prevention available today.

ViiV Healthcare is a subsidiary of British pharmaceutical giant GSK.

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A spokesperson for Viiv said: “We share MSF’s ambition to enable access to cabotegravir LA for PrEP.

“We remain committed to supporting our partners, and we’re currently working closely on contract negotiations with MSF to enable access to cabotegravir LA for PrEP as quickly as possible.”

MSF said it had been negotiating the deal since early 2022, with the aim to first bring the highly effective drug, given as an injection every eight weeks instead of as daily pills, to vulnerable populations in Mozambique.

But a few months ago ViiV had suddenly added the confidentiality clause, it said.

It had also announced it retained the power to terminate the contract or refuse the purchase order without just reasons, in what MSF said undermined supply security.

MSF is “stuck in an infuriating situation,” Helen Bygrave with the MSF Access Campaign said in the statement.

“There’s a lifesaving HIV prevention drug at our fingertips, but ViiV, the only corporation producing CAB-LA for at least the next three to four years, is deliberately putting up red tape to delay access for people in our care.”

 

– ‘Stop stalling’ –

 

In May last year, the Health Gap civil society group alleged that ViiV had set an access price for CAB-LA at $23,000 per person per year in the United States, and at $240-270 per person per year in low-income countries, “putting the drug far out of reach for those who need it most”.

MSF said Thursday that “the new access price is not expected to be significantly different”.

“Regardless, ViiV continues to undermine the established good practices of transparency on HIV drug prices and supply terms in its ongoing negotiations with procurers, by attempting to reinstate confidentiality clauses around the price and supply terms of CAB-LA,” it said.

The medical charity said that since it first began responding to the HIV crisis more than two decades ago, it had consistently refrained from signing such clauses, akin to Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), as part of its efforts to help promote access to affordable, quality-assured treatments.

Bygrave called on ViiV to “stop stalling… so that we can make sure people in our care are offered the most effective HIV prevention as quickly as possible.”

“MSF remains open to finding an immediate solution and awaits the response from ViiV.”

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