U.S. Places Emphasis on Drug Company Profits Rather Than Access to Cheaper, Generic Medications, Opinion Piece Says
It is "appalling that we Americans are putting a priority on patents rather than patients and that we are prepared to sacrifice sick people ... just so companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb can increase their dividends," New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes in his column. In an effort to "curry favor with" the United States, which is thought to be "hostile to generic drugs," some Central American governments have chosen to "let their people die" rather than distribute generic antiretroviral drugs to them, Kristof says. For example, Guatemala spends most of its "scarce money" on brand-name drugs, even though cheaper generic medications could "treat three times as many people," Kristof writes. He adds that while the United States "has made some concessions to public health needs, ... the compassion usually vanishes in trade negotiations." Kristof notes that the public drafts of the Free Trade Area of the Americas "clearly place the priority on patents over public health." In addition, individuals who have read a yet-unreleased draft of the Central American Free Trade Agreement say that it will similarly "embarrass" the United States, Kristof says. He concludes that while U.S. trade officials "deny they are insensitive to third-world health needs," many experts outside the U.S. government say that the United States continues to "place hurdles in front of the use of generics to save lives" (Kristof, New York Times, 11/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.