Drug Patents Enable Research on HIV/AIDS Drugs, PhRMA President Writes
Responding to a Washington Post column that criticized pharmaceutical industry efforts to maintain patents on brand-name HIV/AIDS drugs in the developing world, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America President and CEO Alan Holmer writes in a letter to the editor of the Post today that it is not patents but "poverty, neglect and the lack of sustained international aid" that are the "true barriers" to providing HIV/AIDS treatment in developing nations (Holmer, Washington Post, 10/11). Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby wrote earlier this week that drug companies "badmout[h] the generic competitors that are leading prices down, ... clin[g] to the fiction that patent rules make sense for poor countries, ... [and] tal[k] as though bad infrastructure were the only obstacle to distributing AIDS drugs" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/10). Holmer cites a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year that states that antiretroviral drugs are patented in "few African countries," adding that "[t]hroughout Africa," nations are able to import or produce generic versions of patented AIDS drugs. He notes that in the past five years, PhRMA member firms have contributed more than $2 billion in international aid, reduced the prices of many patented drugs for poorer countries and helped improve the health care infrastructure of many nations. Holmer states that developing new medicines is costly, adding, "To continue this expensive, high-risk research, we need patent protection in the developed world and movement toward patent protection in the poorest countries. This may not be a fashionable view, but it has the virtue of being true" (Washington Post, 10/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.