Several lawmakers complained of the high price of anti-retroviral AIDS drugs in Cambodia during debate of HIV/AIDS legislation at the National Assembly Tuesday, and asked the government to push for cheaper prices for the drugs, which can keep HIV/ AIDS victims alive for years.
Cheap, generic brands of the drugs, which became widely available to pharmaceutical distributors, the government and NGOs in Cambodia in 2001, can be found in markets in Phnom Penh.
Some anti-retroviral treatment regimens cost as little as $90 a month—an improvement from just a few years ago when high-ranking officials and businessmen paid as much as $6,000 a year to receive the drug treatments from private doctors in Phnom Penh.
But lawmakers pointed out Tuesday that Thailand’s poor can receive the anti-retroviral drugs—which do not cure HIV/AIDS—for only $27 a month.
“If the cost of the AIDS drugs sold in Cambodia are affordable to the poor, our people could have hope that they would live longer,” Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Monh Siyon said.
Minister of Health Hong Sun Huot acknowledged that the drugs are still too expensive and said the government is looking for more ways to reduce the price.
In February 2001, Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla announced it was providing cheap anti-retrovirals to Cambodia. It made the drugs available to Medecins Sans Frontieres at a special humanitarian price of $350 a year per patient and to the governments for $600 a year per patient.
Part of a recent $6 million award to Cambodia from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will be used to treat more Cambodians with the drugs.
Pok Panhavichetr, executive director of the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance said a variety of factors have kept the cost of anti-retroviral drugs from becoming cheaper.
“In Thailand, they have a license to produce the drugs locally [whereas] in Cambodia we just import them. Also, in Thailand, the drugs are subsidized by the government,” she said.