IN OTHER WORDS: Cheap pills
Paris-based drug company Sanofi-Aventis, working in collaboration with a nonprofit drug-development organisation pioneered by Doctors Without Borders, will soon introduce a cheap and easy-to-use pill to combat malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. The pill combines two drugs that are already in use into a single medication that can be taken once a day for three days by young children and twice a day for three days by adults to cure the infection.
The course of treatment is notably cheap — less than 50 cents for children and less than $1 for adults. Sanofi will make no profit on sales to public health agencies and international institutions that typically serve poor people.
But it will also produce a branded version to be sold in the private markets of developing countries. To its additional credit, the company has agreed not to seek a patent on the one-pill formulation so that generic companies, like those in India, can produce the pills cheaply and add to the quantities of medicine needed to treat many millions of malaria victims around the world. Now that Sanofi has shown, in the words of one executive, that “we are not nasty people working against poor countries and seeking only profits,” let us hope that many other big drug companies feel the same humanitarian impulse.