The recall of Viracept, which is made sold by Roche (in markets outside the US, Canada and Japan, Pfizer makes and markets the AIDS med) went largely unnoticed in the developed world when it was announced in early June, after the drugmaker discovered some batches made at its Swiss plant contained a dangerous chemical. But the recall has caused growing concern among global health officials and in AIDS programs in many poor nations. They tell the Times that Roche did an inadequate job of informing patients and officials about the potential risks and helping them find affordable access to newer alternative drugs.
- â€œWe have not gotten information, not even an order of magnitude,â€ says Martin Harvey-Allchurch, a spokesman for the European Medicines Agency. â€œI understand sales figures are confidential, but I would have thought by now we would have this information.â€
- â€œRoche has provided information, but there has been much less support in terms of who is going to pay the additional cost,â€ says Dr. CÃ©sar NuÃ±ez, the United Nations AIDS programâ€™s coordinator for Latin America, who is based in Panama.
- Dr. Lembit Rago, an official at the World Health Organization, says tens of thousands of people take Viracept worldwide, many of them poor people with HIV in developing countries, and called the recall â€œsort of a disaster....they failed in communication.â€
Roche denies the accusation. The drugmaker insists it promptly notified health providers in the affected countries to discontinue use of the drug, which is dispensed in both pill and powder form. It also said it would cover the â€œreasonable costsâ€ of the recall. It did not define â€œreasonable costs.â€