GlaxoSmithKline (GSK, Middlesex, UK, www.gsk.com) has differentiated key antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) supplied through not-for-profit agreements from those supplied through other routes by changing the color coating on the tablets from white to red.
Except for the color coating, the tablets are identical. There will be no additional charge for the new tablet. This change is being made to help ensure that medicines that are intended for the world’s poorest countries are not diverted and sold at premium prices in developed markets. Such diversion threatens GSK’s ability to offer heavily discounted prices to the world’s poorest countries and threatens to deny patients who desperately need ARVs, according to a release issued by the company.
The medicines that will be available in the new color are "Combivir" and "Epivir-150mg," which are the medicines supplied in largest volumes by GSK through not-for-profit programs.
The red tablets join a number of other anti-diversion measures for medicines supplied under not-for-profit agreements, such as unique packaging in a special, tri-lingual pack. GSK has also specifically embossed Combivir and Epivir tablets and introduced unique batch numbers for all heavily price-discounted orders so they can be more easily identified in the supply chain.
GSK has registered red Epivir and Combivir tablets with the regulatory authorities in a number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. To date Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Tanzania have approved their use. GSK is therefore now able to start supplying these markets with the red tablets, starting with Ethiopia in January 2005.
As the red tablets are registered in more countries, GSK will begin to phase out supply of white tablets in response to not-for profit orders. For the foreseeable future, however, both red and white tablets will be supplied to customers under not-for profit agreements.