Merck gives free license allowing cheap versions of its HIV drug for children in poor nations

Technology Associated Press

Drugmaker Merck has granted a free license allowing one of its HIV medicines to be made and sold inexpensively for use in young children in poor countries hard hit by the AIDS virus.

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The Medicines Patent Pool works with brand-name drugmakers to make their HIV medicines affordable in developing countries. Its deal with Merck lets any generic or brand name drug manufacturer make low-cost pediatric versions of Merck's raltegravir (rahl-TAY'-greh-veer) for sale in 92 lower-income countries.

Merck, based in Kenilworth, New Jersey, sells raltegravir under the brand name Isentress. In the U.S., it costs about $1,350 a month without insurance.

Raltegravir is approved for children as young as 4 weeks old, and is available as chewable tablets and in a dissolvable powder.