European Commission Approves AIDS Drug Discount Plan Including Measure Prohibiting Drug Reimportation
The European Commission on Monday approved a drug discount plan that includes a measure aimed at halting the reimportation of the drugs into Europe, Reuters reports (Reuters, 5/26). Under the plan, drug companies would sell AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria drugs to developing countries at a 75% discount from their European prices or at a 15% markup over the cost of production, whichever is cheaper (AP/New York Times, 5/27). In exchange, the companies' medicines will be placed on a special European Commission register and marked with a logo to help customs officials identify them to prevent reimportation (Reuters, 5/26). The program will apply to medications sold in 76 countries, including India and China and nations in Africa, according to the Financial Times (Buck, Financial Times, 5/26). European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy called the move an "important contribution to a global partnership ensuring [a] cheap yet sustainable supply of key medicines to the populations of poor countries" (Agence France-Presse, 5/26). However, Oxfam argued that the plan would do little to increase access to drugs. Sonia Vila-Hopkins, advocacy officer for Oxfam, said, "AIDS drugs cost at least $11,500 per year [per patient] in Europe," adding that under the new rule, the discounted price would still be about $3,000, which would make little difference in countries like Zambia, where the health ministry spends only $1 per year on each citizen. Pharmaceutical companies also criticized the measure, claiming that the rules were too rigid and would do little to encourage companies to further discount their drugs for sale in developing countries (Financial Times, 5/26). The Commission said that it hoped other developed countries would implement similar initiatives and plans to raise the issue at the G8 summit next week in Evian, France (Reuters, 5/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.