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Byline: Huntly Collins
Mar. 8--In a new effort to make AIDS drugs affordable in the world's poorest countries, Merck & Co. yesterday announced it would offer 90 percent discounts to developing nations.
The move, aimed at the growing AIDS crisis in Africa, will make Merck's powerful AIDS drug Crixivan available to governments, nonprofit organizations and private employers in Africa and other underdeveloped areas for $600 per patient per year. In the United States, the medicine costs about $6,016 a year.
Another Merck AIDS medicine, Stocrin, will be offered to developing countries for $500 per patient per year, compared with $4,730 in the United States.
Even at those deeply discounted prices, though, the drugs may still be too expensive for most nations in sub-Saharan Africa, where 70 percent of the world's 36.1 million carriers of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, live. There, the average per-capita income is $520, and many nations spend less than $10 a year per person on health care.
The announcement by New Jersey-based Merck, whose U.S. headquarters are in West Point, Montgomery County, may prompt cuts by other major drug firms. It comes amid growing pressure from international …