Allocating scarce financial resources for HIV treatment: benchmarking prices of antiretroviral medicines in Latin America

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Public sector price analyses of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines can provide relevant information to detect ARV procurement procedures that do not obtain competitive market prices. Price benchmarks provide a useful tool for pro- gramme managers and policy makers to support such planning and policy measures. The aim of the study was to develop regional and global price benchmarks which can be used to analyse public-sector price variability of ARVs in low- and middle-income countries using the procurement prices of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries in 2008 as an example.

We used the Global Price Reporting Mechanism (GPRM) data base, provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), for 13 LAC countries’ ARV procurements to analyse the procurement prices of four first-line and three second-line ARV combinations in 2008. First, a cross-sectional analysis was conducted to compare ARV combination prices. Second, four different price ‘benchmarks’ were created and we estimated the additional number of patients who could have been treated in each country if the ARV combinations studied were purchased at the various reference (‘benchmark’) prices.

Large price variations exist for first- and second-line ARV combinations between countries in the LAC region. Most countries in the LAC region could be treating between 1.17 and 3.8 times more patients if procurement prices were closer to the lowest regional generic price. For all second-line combinations, a price closer to the lowest regional innovator prices or to the global median transaction price for lower-middle-income countries would also result in treating up to nearly five times more patients.

Some rational allocation of financial resources due, in part, to price bench- marking and careful planning by policy makers and programme managers can assist a country in negotiating lower ARV procurement prices and should form part of a sustainable procurement policy.