British Pharmaceutical Companies Say Drugs Alone Will Not Improve Health of HIV/AIDS Patients in Developing Countries, Cite Need For Health Infrastructure
In a series of meetings this week with U.K. Industry and Development Secretary Clare Short, representatives from British pharmaceutical companies said that drug discounts and tax incentives for pharmaceutical companies alone will not improve drug access in developing countries, adding that proper health infrastructure to facilitate the distribution and monitor the use of such medications is just as important, Dow Jones Newswires/Wall Street Journal Europe reports. Trevor Jones, director general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, explained that the drug industry "can't be banker and health service to the world," saying that money from other sources is needed to provide the health infrastructure to administer the drugs. Only a partnership between the drug industry, governments and nongovernmental agencies can successfully improve drug access, GlaxoSmithKline Chair Richard Sykes said, adding that the initial meetings were "constructive" (Rodgers, DJ Newswires/Wall Street Journal Europe, 10/11). Jones said that the drug company representatives were encouraged by the involvement of Short because she "is one of the few people who really understands the issues behind this" (Rodgers, Dow Jones Newswires, 10/5).
Next Round to Tackle Intellectual Property Rights
Representatives from the ABPI, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca PLC, the U.K. Treasury, WHO, the World Trade Organization, the European Commission, the Wellcome Trust, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ugandan High Commission took part in this week's talks and are scheduled to meet again in January and April. Intellectual property rights and differential pricing, two topics that have "dogged discussions on [drug] access" in recent months, will be discussed at the upcoming meetings. A spokesperson for GlaxoSmithKline said that the industry also continues to be "concern[ed]" over the potential for donated or discounted drugs to be illegally re-exported from developing countries back to the West, but added that the companies' "greater worry" concerned the lack of personnel in developing nations trained to administer the drugs. Short is scheduled to present a summary of the meetingss to U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair in May (DJ Newswires/Wall Street Journal Europe, 10/11). The talks were similar in tone and content to those recently held with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Last week, after his latest meeting with industry representatives, Annan said that drug companies had taken "significant steps" toward making HIV- and AIDS-related medications more affordable for developing nations. AstraZeneca has recently opened a tuberculosis research center in Bangalore, India, while GlaxoSmithKline has enlisted 15 countries in its accelerating access program, with another 71 additions possible. Glaxo also announced on Sunday that it will permit Aspen Pharmacare, a South African generic drug manufacturer, to produce generic versions of three of its patented AIDS medications. Annan said such advances were the result of "intensifying partnerships" with nongovernmental agencies, local communities and employers and added that more resources, political will and "skills from outside the pharmaceutical industry" are needed to successfully expand drug access (Rodgers, DJ Newswires, 10/10).