Bill Clinton, in Return to Activism, Announces Agreement to Lower Price of Malaria Drug

Former President Bill Clinton, returning to his role as global activist for the first time after his wife's presidential run, today announced an agreement with six drug companies to lower the price of a malaria-fighting drug by 30 percent.

Clinton made the announcement in New York City at the office of his charitable organization, the William J. Clinton Foundation, which has conducted global initiatives on poverty and HIV/AIDS.

"Nearly every life lost to malaria could have been saved with access to effective medicines," President Clinton said. "My Foundation has helped organize markets for HIV/AIDS drugs, and I am proud that we have been able to extend this model to malaria."

"Today's announcement is an important step forward in global efforts to increase access to affordable and effective malaria treatment," Clinton added, "and I applaud the commitments of these companies to lower volatility in this market and offer low and sustainable prices that will save more lives."

Drug companies will also work to reduce by 70 percent the market price volatility of a raw chemical used to make the drug.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one million people die of malaria each year, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa, and that between 350 and 500 million cases occur worldwide each year. Malaria was the fourth leading cause of death worldwide in 2002, according to CDC.

The prices will be available to 69 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, the Clinton foundation announced. Those companies have worked with Clinton before, and form his Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative purchasing consortium.

Clinton forged the agreement with drug companies Calyx, Cipla, Holleypharm, Ipca Laboratories, Mangalam Drugs, and PIDI Standard. Under the agreement, they will reduce the price of a leading malaria-fighting drug, an artesunate plus amodiaquine combination. They will work to reduce the price volatility of artmesinin, a chemical used to make the drug.

The price of artmesinin began fluctuating by 700 percent in 2004, after a rapid, uneven increase in demand, making access to artmesinin-based drugs more difficult, the Clinton foundation said.

Today's announcement marks Clinton's first foray back into large-scale activism after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) long run at the presidency. The former president held fundraising events for his wife in early 2007 and first hit the campaign trail with her in July of that year, stumping for her as a campaign surrogate in Iowa.

His involvement in her campaign brought criticism from pundits, who questioned his impassioned defenses of his wife and attacks on her rivals. Most prominently, Clinton was blasted for comparing Barack Obama's primary victory in South Carolina to Rev. Jesse Jackson's victories there in 1984 and 1988.

Clinton has appeared to work toward healing the rift with Obama recently, speaking with Obama on the phone June 30 after issuing a statement that he is ready to campaign for the Illinois senator.