Drug Companies’ ‘Profit Motive’ Should Not Outweigh ‘Urgent Goal of Saving Lives’ of People With HIV/AIDS, Editorial Says
Although the "profit motive" of large pharmaceutical companies is "perhaps understandable," the desire to make money "should not be allowed to override the more urgent goal of saving lives" by allowing the provision of generic antiretroviral drugs for HIV-positive people in developing countries, a Bangkok Post editorial says. While there is "very broadbased international support" for the use of generic antiretroviral drugs, "there are indications that the pharmaceutical companies may be trying to take back their global monopoly," the editorial says. The companies are large contributors to political parties in the United States; the head of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- "which has yet to produce any significant action," according to the editorial -- is a former pharmaceutical company CEO; and HHS recently held a meeting with the World Health Organization to discuss the safety of generic drugs "in an apparent attempt to get the WHO to withdraw its approval of them and endorse only patented drugs," the Post says. In addition, "there is concern" that drug companies will pressure the World Trade Organization to disallow an extension on an agreement that expires in 2005 that allows developing countries to manufacture their own antiretroviral drugs, the editorial says. Although some drug companies provide their AIDS-related drugs at reduced rates in developing countries, the brand-name medicines are "still much more expensive than generics," the Post says. The editorial concludes that while "[c]redit must go to the pharmaceutical companies for their skill, ingenuity and labor-intensive efforts to create weapons" to fight HIV/AIDS, "there is no question that the use of generics means that many more people will be able to live fairly normal lives for an indefinite time, and remain productive and provide support for their families" (Bangkok Post, 4/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.