Some of the anti-retroviral drugs available in the market. Photo/FILE By ADAM IHUCHA, Special Correspondent Posted Sunday, December 4 2011 at 10:57 TANZANIA HAS completed a multi million-dollar plant for manufacturing generic antiretroviral drugs, giving hope for cheaper medicine to nearly four million HIV patients in East Africa. Fears loom over the expected EU-India Free Trade Agreement that could seriously jeopardise access to affordable generic ARVs from India. However, the new plant will produce a minimum of 100 million tablets a year serving 100,000 patients. The $8.4 million factory in Arusha will start commercial production of the drugs in January 2012. The Tanzania Pharmaceutical Industries plant has been established under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, which allows least developed countries to produce essential drugs without introducing pharmaceutical product patents until 2016. The ARV plant is funded by Tanzania Pharmaceutical Industries, the European Commission and Action Medeor, a German medical Aid Organisation. Once commercial production starts in January next year, the generic drug will cost people living with HIV/Aids $10 less for their monthly dosage. Currently, imported generic ARVs cost nearly $30, whereas the local generic ARVs will cost $20 for a monthly dosage of two tablets per day. Some provisions of the EU-India FTA under negotiation, seek to impose higher standards of intellectual property protection that would limit, and in some cases completely bar India from producing generic ARVs and other essential medicines. Available records show that 92 per cent of people living with HIV on treatment in low and middle-income countries currently use generic ARVs, mostly manufactured in India. For example, Medicines Sans Frontieres buys 80 per cent of its Aids medicines from Indian companies. Some 90 per cent of Aids drugs provided to 13 countries by Pepfar-the US President's global Aids programme-are generics, the overwhelming majority of them also produced in India.