In developing countries where electricity is unpredictable, refrigeration tends to be scarce. HIV/AIDS, on the other hand, may be all too common. For the millions living with HIV/AIDS in places such as sub-Saharan Africa, a lack of refrigeration once meant a lack of access to antiretroviral medicines.
This is because ritonavir, one of the three different medicines required for one important HIV/AIDS treatment regimen, breaks down if not refrigerated. Ritonavir is used to enhance the performance of other protease inhibitors, such as lopinavir, another medicine used in HIV/AIDS treatment regimens.
The question we asked was, “Can we make an affordable, heat-stable version of ritonavir accessible in sufficient quantities to people in the developing world?” The answer was “yes.”
We developed a high quality generic version of Abbott Laboratories’ Kaletra®. Not only is it heat-stable (like its brand name counterpart), but it’s also approved by the World Health Organization as part of a second-line treatment option for people who have developed a resistance to first-line HIV/AIDS treatment. Today, the medicine is available in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin and Central America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.
Our efforts allowed us to increase access to this high quality medicine and at the same time fulfill a commitment we made to former President Bill Clinton to lower the price of second-line treatment for HIV/AIDS in developing countries.