Expanding Lower-Cost Access to Diagnostic Technology in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Breakthrough Agreement Will Reduce Costs and Increase Access to Diagnostic Technology in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

A breakthrough pricing agreement, announced on July 25, 2018 at the 2018 International AIDS Conference, will significantly reduce the cost of diagnostic testing for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C (HBV, HCV) and human papilloma virus (HPV) for millions of people in low- and middle-income countries and will enable public sector programs to access the Hologic Panther® system, an integrated molecular diagnostic instrument, at a price of US$12 per patient. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended such testing as the gold standard for monitoring the effectiveness of treatment for HIV. Today, only 56 percent of people living with HIV have routine access to viral load testing. The savings generated from the agreement will allow governments to improve treatment monitoring for hundreds of thousands of patients.

The agreement involves the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Unitaid, MedAccess (backed by the UK government), the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM), and the government of Zambia.

“The Hologic Global Access Initiative is a great step forward in expanding access to HIV testing across the developing world. Cutting edge initiatives like this are vital if we are to meet our commitment to end AIDS by 2030,” said Alastair Burt, Minister of State at DFID, in a press release.

At least five countries in sub-Saharan Africa—Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe—are expected to introduce this technology in 2018. Zambia is the first country to implement the Hologic Panther platform for routine viral load testing. Unitaid has selected Hologic to pilot the all-inclusive pricing in the other four countries.

The Zambian Ministry of Health plans to deploy Panther instruments at large regional hospitals to augment the existing testing network. This approach, which will add much-needed capacity, lower costs, and help reduce turnaround time, is a key part of the government’s strategy for achieving epidemic control of HIV in the next three years. Dr. Aaron Shibemba, National Coordinator of Pathology and Laboratory Services at the Zambia Ministry of Health, said, “The fully automated platform enabled the Center for Infectious Disease Research Zambia (CIDRZ) to perform over 20,000 tests in just two months, thus assisting in the elimination of Zambia’s national testing backlog. As a Ministry, and with support from PEPFAR, we will be rolling out an additional six instruments in high priority testing sites as we work towards meeting our 90-90-90 targets.”

MedAccess, with the support of CHAI, has reached a price agreement with Hologic that will enable national testing programs to utilize the Panther system at a significantly reduced rate. The US$12 price applies to all qualified purchases made for public sector use beginning in August 2018; it is expected to save public sector purchasers at least US$50 million over the next four years. For over a decade, CHAI has partnered with DFID to improve access to high-quality, low-cost testing for HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis and other diseases in low- and middle-income countries. Their work together has saved an estimated US$2 billion to date and has improved access to quality healthcare for patients in nineteen countries across Africa, India, and Southeast Asia.

“This agreement provides significant savings to our partners that are scaling up HIV viral load testing…. Since effective treatments are available for these diseases, early detection will save lives,” said CHAI Vice President of Global Markets, Alan Staple.

The Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc. (CHAI) is a global health organization committed to saving lives and reducing the burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries: www.clintonhealthaccess.org. On Twitter @ClintonHealth

MedAccess (Private) Ltd, a subsidiary of CDC, the UK Development Finance Institution, is a UK social finance company with government backing that works to make medical supplies more widely available at affordable prices, particularly in Africa and South Asia. www.cdcgroup.com/en/how-we-invest/how-we-partner-with-businesses/initiatives/medaccess/.

Further details are available on request to Hologic and can be found at www.hologic.com/GlobalAccessInitiative. On Twitter @Hologic

—Reporting by Hank Trout

Hank Trout, Editor at Large, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a thirty-eight-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his fiancé Rick Greathouse. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.