In an unusual step, Bayer Healthcare announced yesterday that it had agreed to allow its most promising new antibiotic, moxifloxacin, be tested against tuberculosis, a disease that kills 5,000 people a day and is the immediate cause of death for a third of the world's AIDS victims. If the antibiotic substantially shortens TB treatment, which now typically lasts six months, the company will make millions of doses and sell them at low prices to poor countries. Bayer's decision is unusual because major drug companies rarely test their best-selling patented antibiotics against diseases of the poor - and virtually never test them against tuberculosis - for fear of hurting sales in rich countries. Bayer makes about $500 million a year from moxifloxacin, which it sells in the United States as Avelox and elsewhere as Avalox, Avelon, Megaxin, Actira and Izilox.
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