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India, Africa get free HIV drug license

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Bristol Myers-Squibb will license its anti-retroviral drug Reyataz royalty-free to two drug makers in Africa and India.

Generic drug firms Aspen Pharmacare of South Africa and India's Emcure Pharmaceuticals can produce and sell the protease inhibitor Reyataz, generically known as atazanavir, in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the deal announced Wednesday.

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The companies will also receive help with the technical aspects of manufacturing the drugs, BMS said.

The deal is one of the first to make a second-line HIV/AIDS treatment available at low cost. Though generic licensing agreements exist for several first-line drugs, patients often develop resistance to them within a year and must transition to second-line therapies that can cost 10 times as much.

It is not clear how much impact the licensing will have, however, because Reyataz is typically used in conjunction with Abbott Laboratories' ritonavir, which requires refrigeration, a luxury often not available in the countries where the drugs are most needed.

In January, Roche, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, signed a similar agreement licensing its second-line treatment saquinavir for generic production and marketing in sub-Saharan Africa.

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