AntiHIV Drugs Need to Be Made Affordable in Africa, Newsday Editorial Says
"Someone needs to light a nice big fire under the multinational drug giants," a Newsday editorial says in response to the 25.3 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who will die of untreated AIDS "simply because they can't afford the exorbitant cost of the sophisticated drugs that would extend their lives." Indian generic drug maker Cipla's recent pledge to supply generic antiretroviral drugs for $350 per patient per year is "quite an offer," the editorial notes, considering the average annual retail price for drug combinations in the United States runs from $10,000 to $15,000. However, Cipla's offer "does pose some problems," because Doctors Without Borders, the only group to which Cipla will provide the drugs, "doesn't wish to serve mainly as drug conduit in Africa," and despite the deep discount Cipla is offering, "many nations and private groups in Africa will need financial help." The editorial cites Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs, who this week proposed that the United States, Europe and Japan construct a $1 billion fund to purchase antiHIV drugs, saying that the pharmaceutical companies may then supply two million Africans with combination therapy at $500 per year per patient because they are "tired of playing the world's villain." If the large drug makers would agree to this, then "Cipla's offer could push them even closer to significant concessions," because there is "nothing like the threat of cheap generic drugs to turn the big guys into real humanitarians." The editorial adds that the Bush administration "now has a chance to do something genuinely compassionate. It should stick with a Clinton administration order that pledges to look the other way as African countries import cheap generic HIV drugs from places like India." The editorial concludes, "This would keep the heat turned up nicely" (Newsday, 2/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.