Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Editorials on Global AIDS Fight
Several newspapers this week have responded to recent developments in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. Summaries of the editorials appear below:
Charlotte Observer: The Bush administration made a "potentially life-saving shift" in policy by announcing plans for a new FDA fast-track review program to speed the delivery of low-cost antiretroviral drugs -- including fixed-dose combination drugs -- to African and Caribbean nations covered under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, an Observer editorial says. However, it is "curiou[s]" that the administration's decision followed announcements from U.S. drug makers that they had filed for approval of FDCs, the editorial says. "Whatever the impetus, the move has great potential to help the millions in poor countries in Africa and the Caribbean who are dying in droves because they can't get inexpensive drugs," according to the Observer. To meet the goals of the World Health Organization's 3 by 5 Initiative to treat three million people with antiretroviral drugs by 2005, "we must make those drugs more accessible," the editorial says, concluding that the fast-track program, "if it doesn't bog down in any extra unnecessary red tape, could enhance that access" (Charlotte Observer, 5/19).
Guardian: The Bush administration's decision to offer an expedited FDA approval program for FDCs could allow the country's "largess to be spent far more effectively, providing treatments for several million more AIDS patients in the worst-hit countries of Africa and the Caribbean," a Guardian editorial says. However, the "welcome to the latest U.S. decision may be tempered by its details" because it "remains to be seen if the optimistic promise of a 'two to six week' decision period by the FDA can be met," the editorial says. Also, the government's requirement of another drug review in addition to WHO's "rigorous" prequalification system could serve as a "further barrier to using generic drugs," according to the editorial. It is also a "tragedy" that the United States "refuses to channel its billions of dollars" through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria but "so wastefully chooses to duplicate its work," the Guardian says. The editorial concludes that other countries that have been "so critical" of other U.S. foreign policies should "seek to match its deeds when it comes to funding the war against AIDS" (Guardian, 5/19).
Los Angeles Times: Both "huge amounts" of money and "broad, cost-effective" prevention and treatment networks are needed to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a Times editorial says. One of the "most effective" programs is the Global Fund, but the administration instead is proposing channeling money through "bilateral programs," some of which have been established under the "U.S.-controlled" Millennium Challenge Account, which grants aid only to nations "meeting various economic, social and political ideals," according to the Times. The administration also chose a "go it alone" approach by establishing the new FDA fast-track approval program, the editorial says, concluding that the "fact remains that the Millennium Challenge Account is not proving effective against the worldwide AIDS epidemic, and the Bush administration should bow to that reality" (Los Angeles Times, 5/19).
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: The new FDA fast-track approval program will offer a "major improvement" in the time it takes antiretrovirals and other drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS to be approved, but the administration also should "focus on helping build a health infrastructure that can get these drugs to the people in poor countries who need them," a Democrat and Chronicle editorial says. The administration should make a "much greater investment" in health care systems to train personnel to "efficiently test for HIV" and distribute medicines, the editorial says. "Ironically," Bush said that part of the reason for "holding back" PEPFAR funding is because the countries included in the plan lack the necessary infrastructure; however, the United States "should be making it happen," the editorial says. If the FDA's fast-track approval program is to "fulfill its potential to combat [HIV/AIDS], the proper channels must be put in place for effective drug distribution," the Democrat and Chronicle says, concluding, "There is no time to waste" (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 5/19).