O’Neill ‘Worried’ Price Cuts on Antiretroviral Drugs From Large Drug Companies Could Reduce Available AIDS Research Funds
U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said yesterday that he was "worried" that calls to lower the prices of antiretroviral drugs could lead large pharmaceutical companies to spend less on research into HIV/AIDS therapies, and he questioned whether "small-scale" AIDS research would be able to yield research breakthroughs, Reuters reports. "We have to be really careful to make sure we don't kill the golden goose that produces these answers (new treatments)," O'Neill said during a visit to the Uganda Virus Research Institute. According to Reuters, O'Neill "questioned whether a medical breakthrough could be made against AIDS outside the big research agencies in wealthier nations." He added, "I worry a lot about using resources that don't have enough scale to do anything." UVRI houses a branch of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the Uganda offices of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. O'Neill visited the facility as part of his four-country African tour with Irish rock star Bono (Reuters, 5/28).
Activists Criticize O'Neill's Funding Suggestions
While visiting a clinic that treats HIV-positive pregnant women in South Africa last week, O'Neill questioned why the women were not on long-term treatment but were treated only to reduce the risk of vertical HIV transmission. The Wall Street Journal reports that O'Neill's suggestion that some money allocated for HIV/AIDS prevention programs be funneled into treatment projects has "alarmed" some AIDS activists, who say that his idea is only a "quick fi[x]." Daniel Mullins, regional HIV/AIDS coordinator for Oxfam in Pretoria, said, "I think it's dangerous to talk about treatment versus prevention" (Phillips, Wall Street Journal, 5/29).
NPR's "Morning Edition" today featured an interview from Uganda with Bono, who discussed the African tour. The full segment will be available in RealPlayer Audio online after noon ET (Edwards, "Morning Edition," NPR, 5/29). PRI's "The World" yesterday reported on AIDS in Uganda, including an interview with Harvard School of Public Health Research Scientist Vinand Nantulya, who has studied the country's success in fighting the disease. The report is available online in RealPlayer Audio ("The World," PRI, 5/28).