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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 February 2006, 12:23 GMT
African firm seals HIV drug deal
Generic pills
Cheap generic drugs are popular with many governments
Africa's largest drug company has secured a deal to produce a generic version of a leading HIV treatment for sufferers in developing countries.

South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare has reached agreement with US firm Bristol Myers-Squibb to produce and distribute Atazanavir to about 70 countries.

The deal will improve anti-retroviral drug supplies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Some 25.8 million Africans have been diagnosed as HIV-positive, but only about 10% are receiving treatment.

Affordable treatments

Africa's fight against HIV/Aids has suffered from a lack of access to affordable treatments.

Aspen said the agreement would make the new drug more widely available in South Africa and across the continent.

"Aspen has remained committed to expanding access to HIV medicines in sub-Saharan Africa, where millions are suffering from the disease," said Stephen Saad, the firm's chief executive.

"It is indicative of Aspen's ability to align itself with one of the world's leading companies in an attempt to solve what has largely become an African-based problem."

Atazanavir - which is taken orally - offered more effective treatment than existing HIV therapies, Mr Saad added.

Generic drug manufacturers such as Aspen produce exact replicas of branded drugs whose patents have lapsed, making them cheaper to buy.

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