In India, A Paradox of Supply and Demand

Millions are Infected with HIV, But Few Get Treatment

Amar Lulla, joint managing director of Cipla,

Amar Lulla, joint managing director of Cipla, a pharmaceutical company in India that produces Triomune, a generic drug that's proven affordable and effective. Brenda Wilson, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Brenda Wilson, NPR

At the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, the main issue is getting inexpensive generic drugs to tens of millions of people. At the center of the debate are relatively small generic drug manufacturers in poor countries. One of the more aggressive of these generic drug companies is an Indian firm called Cipla.

Cipla produces a drug called Triomune. The pill is a triple drug cocktail that costs less than 50 cents a day, making it not only easier to take but cheaper. It holds out the hope of treating millions of people in poor countries who have AIDS.

The irony is that Cipla sells Triomune mostly to other countries. In an interview with NPR's Brenda Wilson, Cipla managing director Amar Lulla says the company has been trying for years to sell more generic drugs in India, but the government wouldn't agree to Cipla's terms until recently.

Activists say it's a profound paradox: A country known for manufacturing cheap AIDS drugs has failed to put into action a plan for offering treatment to its 2 million citizens living with AIDS.

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