Cipla’s recent move to cut the price of three HIV drugs in India has been criticised by the USA’s largest and oldest AIDS support organisation which says the firm needs to reduce its prices further in its home market.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has been at the head of a campaign aimed at pressuring Cipla to lower its prices in India, has described the cuts as modest on Viraday, a generic formulation of Bristol Myers-Squibb and Gilead Sciences' Atripla (efavirenz, emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate). It is also less than impressed with the reduction offered for generics of two of the components of the combo, Efavir and Tenvir-EM.

The aforementioned campaign revealed a price difference of 150% between what Cipla has offered African and Indian purchasers for the drugs. Chinkholal Thangsing, Asia Pacific bureau chief for AHF, said that the organisation applauded the move “as a small step in the right direction”, but added that “a price cut of 5% to 15% is nowhere near enough to make Cipla's lifesaving HIV/AIDS drugs affordable and accessible to all Indians in need".

Dr Thangsing added that “we urge Cipla to make the dramatic price cuts necessary to ensure that its own countrymen and women will benefit from the company's ability to produce cheap medicines, just as those in Africa and other parts of the developing world have benefited." AHF noted that the recent price reduction was offered as a gift from Cipla to all Indian patients on the occasion of World AIDS Day on December 1.

Mahesh Ganesan, AHF’s advocacy coordinator, said that of 2.5 million people now estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in India, only around 85,000 are receiving antiretroviral treatment. "If the average income is 29,000 rupees which, according to the World Bank, is India's gross national income, then whether a year's supply of medicines costs 54,000 rupees a year or 46,800 makes little difference, as it is still far too high and still beyond the reach of most Indians in need," he added.

AHF also noted that Cipla is currently under investigation by the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission, India's anti-trust commission, over possible overpricing of Viraday.