Cipla has sent legal notice to the US NGO asking them to apologies for false allegations.

Cipla is one of the largest exporters of antiretroviral drugs worldwide and its drugs are sold in 60 countries.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the US-based NGO has alleged that Cipla is selling its anti-Aids Drug Viraday in India at two and half times the price it sells in Africa.

On August 9, the NGO had alleged that Cipla’s drug, Viraday tablets, is available to a patient in Africa for Rs 21,200 for a year’s treatment while it costs Rs 54,000 in India. The NGO had issued advertisement in leading Indian newspapers with the same allegations. Viraday tablet is Cipla’s generic three-in-one combination antiretroviral therapy that AIDS patients have to take just once a day.

According to Cipla joint MD Amar Lulla, the company does not sell Viraday tablets in Africa. Therefore the company has sent a legal notice to the NGO asking them to apologize with an advertisement for their false allegations. He claimed that the NGO has apologized, but the company wants the clarification to be issued at a public forum.

However, the NGO refuted the company’s claim and continues to stand its ground. AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Asia Pacific bureau chief Dr Chingkholal Thangsing said that they have no reason to apologize. There has been some technical (grammar) error in the advertisement and we will withdraw that technical aspect but continue with the campaign.

He added that Cipla has “offered to sell the drug at Rs 21,000 per year to Medical Sans Frontier (MSF)” which means that the company is willing to sell the drug at that price. In India, the drug is sold at Rs 54,000, thus restricting access to many AIDS patients, he claimed.

Though the company had indeed offered to sell the drug to MSF at the Rs 21,000 price, it was never sold and the offer has already been withdrawn, Mr Lulla added. The NGO has replied to Cipla’s earlier notice after the NGO went public with its allegation earlier this month. However, the NGO is yet to reply to the legal notice from Cipla which has asked it to apologise for its allegations.

The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) is expected to probe the NGO’s allegation.

Some global organizations like UNAIDS and World Health Organisation (WHO) have also shown interest in these developments by getting details of the allegation from Aids Healthcare Foundation.