Hard to ‘Find Common Ground’ on International HIV/AIDS Drug Access, JAMA Perspective Piece Says
Interest in global access to pharmaceuticals has "grown exponentially" in the last year, but the "attitude of the United States and other developed countries, by and large, is that they wish to sell their products anywhere in the world without barriers, but also without adequate consideration of negative consequences ... for the world's people in terms of, for example, health," Dr. H. David Banta writes in a Journal of the American Medication Association perspective piece. Patent drug access was "perhaps the most prominent issue" during the last 12 months, he says, adding that the "symbol" of the problems in the current system is antiretroviral drug access for people living with HIV/AIDS in developing nations. This issue of treatment access for everyone with HIV/AIDS "has become an important illustration of how, in an increasingly global economy, the benefits of science and technology are distributed," Banta says. On one side of the "contentious debate," the pharmaceutical industry has "wag[ed] a worldwide campaign" to make its case that "intellectual property is the key for stimulating research and development," and patents ensure that "innovation will continue," Banta says. However, NGOs and governments of developing countries point to the "prohibitive price" of patented drugs, saying that the drugs' high cost impedes access, he continues. Banta writes that the debate has placed the access issue "high on the agenda of political leaders," noting that the WTO and WHO last month held a "never before" joint meeting to discuss pharmaceutical issues. One proposal to "find common ground" that was offered at the meeting -- to improve drug access with compulsory licensing -- was rejected by drug industry representatives. The WHO, which has been "show[ing] increasing signs of becoming involved" in the debate, held the World Health Assembly in Geneva last month in which methods for overcoming patent barriers to essential drugs was debated. The outcome of this debate will be reported in a future JAMA article, Banta notes (Banta, JAMA, 6/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.