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Active pharmaceutical ingredients for antiretroviral treatment in low- and middle-income countries: a survey

Joseph M Fortunak, Rodrigo OMA de Souza, Amol A Kulkarni, Christopher L King, Tiffany Ellison, Leandro SM Miranda

Corresponding author name: Joseph M Fortunak
Corresponding author e-mail: jfortunak@comcast.net

Citation: Antiviral Therapy 2014; 19 Suppl 3: 15-29
doi: 10.3851/IMP2897

Date accepted: 23 April 2014
Date published online: 13 October 2014


Active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are the molecular entities that exert the therapeutic effects of medicines. This article provides an overview of the major APIs that are entered into antiretroviral therapy (ART), outlines how APIs are manufactured, and examines the regulatory and cost frameworks of manufacturing ART APIs used in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Almost all APIs for ART are prepared by chemical synthesis. Roughly 15 APIs account for essentially all of the ARTs used in LMICs. Nearly all of the ART APIs purchased through the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) or the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) are produced by generic companies. API costs are very important because they are the largest contribution to the overall cost of ART. Efficient API production requires substantial investment in chemical manufacturing technologies and the ready availability of raw materials and energy at competitive prices. Generic API production is practiced in only a limited number of countries; the API market for ART is dominated by Indian companies. The quality of these APIs is ensured by manufacturing under good manufacturing practice (GMP), including process validation, testing against previously established specifications and the demonstration of clinical bioequivalence. The investment and personnel costs of a quality management system for GMP contribute significantly to the cost of API production. Chinese companies are the major suppliers for many advanced intermediates in API production. Improved chemistry of manufacturing, economies of scale and optimization of procurement have enabled drastic cost reductions for many ART APIs. The available capacity for global production of quality-assured APIs is likely adequate to meet forecasted demand for 2015. The increased use of ART for paediatric treatment, for second-line and salvage therapy, and the introduction of new APIs and combinations are important factors for the future of treatment in LMICs. The introduction of new fixed-dose combinations for ART and use of new drug delivery technologies could plausibly provide robust, durable ART for all patients in need, at an overall cost that is only moderately higher than what is presently being spent.


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