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

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.

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.