PhRMA Official Says Efforts to Cut Prices of AIDS Drugs Will Hamper Future Research
Lowering the price of antiretroviral drugs and allowing generic medicines to enter developing nations would "damage the research and development efforts that lead to new drugs," according to a top official with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. PhRMA Executive Vice President Judy Bello said at a Washington, D.C., briefing Tuesday that while drug companies view themselves as the "best hope for the long term" for developing AIDS vaccines and medicines, they must maintain strong profit margins to continue research and development. Bello added that lowering prices for antiretroviral drugs in developing nations "would lead to falling profit margins which would in turn lower investment and damage the research and development efforts that lead to new drugs." In addition, she said, drug makers would face "enormous demand to bring those same low prices into the U.S. market." Critics, however, contend that lowered prices would "at a minimum help wealthier" individuals in developing nations who are currently unable to purchase AIDS drugs. Peter Lurie, deputy director of Public Citizen's health research group, said, "Pricing is not everything, but it is still an important thing. And for some people it is everything." Bello replied that even if drug companies lowered the price of AIDS drugs, most people would still be unable to access them, as most nations "lack the health budgets, infrastructure and political will to ensure that [the drugs] are distributed and administered properly to patients." She added, "Even free drugs do no good if they don't get to people." PhRMA is supporting the office of the United States Trade Representative in its fight against a Brazilian law that allows the South American nation to produce generic AIDS drugs. The law is being reviewed by the World Trade Organization, and the outcome of the case will be "precedent setting," Bello said (Zwillich, Reuters Health, 2/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.