Asia Pressures Australia to Support Cheaper Drug Access for AIDS
The Australian federal government is under pressure from Asia to "take a firmer line" with international pharmaceutical companies to permit access to cheaper AIDS drugs in developing nations, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Malaysian AIDS Council President Marina Mahathir said yesterday that she would speak to Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, as Australia has "resisted Opposition demands" that it side with the South African government in the patent protection lawsuit it faces from 39 multinational drug firms. The Australian government has, however, said that it supports provisions under world trade rules permitting countries in emergencies to support less expensive drugs. Mahathir said that if the drug industry "did not bend," more countries would turn to India and Brazil for cheaper generic versions of the drugs. Although she did not speak with her father, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad about the issue, Marina Mahathir said that the Malaysian government supported the effort to bring more affordable drugs to poorer countries. A Downer spokesperson said drugs were important in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but they were only "part of the overall international response." As part of a $200 million global initiative, Australia is making "a substanial contribution" to prevention and community-based care, which were "equally effective against the epidemic," he said. An International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific will be held in Melbourne in October (Metherell, Sydney Morning Herald, 4/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.