Story at a glance

  • Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla manufactured an innovative drug that will treat HIV in children.
  • The medicine, Quadrimune, is smaller in size and strawberry-flavored for administrative ease.
  • CEO Dr. Yusuf Hamied pioneered affordable biosimilars in treating HIV.

Indian drug manufacturer Cipla Ltd launched a medicine aimed at combating childhood AIDs last Friday. This pediatric alternative is smaller and strawberry-flavored, making it easier for children to ingest, according to the New York Times. The sweetest part? The medicine is supposed to only cost $1.

The new drug, called Quadrimune, is aptly named; it is composed of four HIV drugs: ritonavir, lopinavir, abacavir and lamivudine. While infections have declined since 2010, in 2018, HIV.gov reported that an estimated 1.7 million children, or adolescents under the age of 15, were infected with HIV. Coupled with the fact that current HIV drugs are difficult to administer to children due to the bitter flavor and hard pill or syringe mediums. By contrast, Quadrimune is designed as capsules full of tiny, digestible granules fit for sprinkling on food and don’t require refrigeration. 

Cipla is no stranger to making headlines in affordable medicine. In 2001, Cipla CEO Dr. Yusuf Hamied introduced a $1 fixed-dose kit of HIV medicine called Triomune — a combination of three drugs. At the time this was revolutionary, but increased competition and the prevalence of biosimilars on the market have driven prices down. As interchangeable alternatives, biosimilars are drugs that are held to the same standards as leading biological medicines and are not clinically different. More biosimilar medication options available could potentially mean lower health care costs. Using this logic, Hamied and Cipla partnered with Doctors Without Borders and other international activists to offer the $1-a-day bundle of Triomune exclusively to Doctors Without Borders, a move that ultimately led Big Pharma companies to drop their patents to make way for affordable biosimilars. 

According to the Drugs for Neglected Disease initiative (DNDi), Quadrimune will undergo a trial in Uganda, under the supervision of Epicentre, an epidemiology research company. 

Published on Dec 02, 2019