U.S. Official Defends Policy on Generic AIDS Drugs; Business Coalition Says Policy Undermining Efforts To Fight DiseaseGlobal Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS CEO Richard Holbrooke on Wednesday at a meeting organized by the coalition and the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the United States' delay in purchasing generic antiretroviral drugs is "tearing apart" efforts to fight AIDS in developing countries, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Nesmith, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/31). However, John Lange, deputy coordinator at the State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, speaking at the meeting said that the United States is not trying to avoid purchasing generic antiretrovirals but wants to "assure the quality, safety and efficacy of them," Reuters reports (Fox, Reuters, 3/31). Officials from HHS, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and the Southern African Development Community at a two-day meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, this week discussed an agreement over standards for generic antiretroviral drugs for use in developing countries. The medications in question are fixed-dose combination, or FDC, antiretroviral drugs, including Cipla's Triomune and Ranbaxy Laboratories' Triviro, which combine stavudine, lamivudine and nevirapine into one pill that is taken twice a day and costs as little as $140 per person per year. A regimen of the same three drugs purchased separately from patent holders GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Boehringer-Ingelheim requires six pills a day and costs about $562 per patient per year (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/31). "Fairly or not," the United States' reluctance to use antiretroviral drugs "is going to become a symbol that the United States is protecting" brand-name pharmaceutical companies, Holbrooke said, adding that the issue "could undermine all the good work we are doing" (Reuters, 3/31). Lange said that he expects the generic drug issue to be resolved by the fall (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/31).
Only 3% of the 3.9 million HIV-positive people who need antiretroviral drugs in Africa have access to them, according to a study released on Wednesday at a forum in Dakar, Senegal, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/31). The study was conducted by the Accelerating Access Initiative, a partnership between the United Nations and six pharmaceutical companies (Washington Times, 4/1). Despite an 85% drop in the cost of antiretroviral drugs over the past two years and the fact that 40 African countries now have national HIV/AIDS plans, only 150,000 HIV/AIDS patients in Africa are currently receiving treatment, according to the study. In addition, only 2% of sub-Saharan Africans have access to antiretrovirals, compared with 84% of people in Latin America, the study said. Delegates from 19 countries in Africa, Europe, North America and South America took part in the forum, which ended Wednesday (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/31).