36 Countries Propose WHO Draft Resolution To Expand Access to Antiretroviral Drugs
Thirty-six countries on Wednesday presented a draft resolution at the World Health Organization's assembly calling on the 192 member nations to increase access to HIV/AIDS treatment by making use of a World Trade Organization agreement that allows developing countries to waive patent laws to import generic drugs, including antiretrovirals, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 5/19). WTO negotiators in August 2003 reached an agreement to allow developing countries to issue a compulsory license in order to import generic drugs if the country confirms that it cannot domestically manufacture them (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/29/03). The draft resolution, which was presented by Brazil, China, European Union member states and other nations, calls on countries to "use to the full the flexibilities" of the WTO agreement and "strengthe[n] and expan[d]" a WHO list of drugs approved through its prequalification system for use in developing countries (Agence France-Presse, 5/19). The WHO prequalification system is a voluntary drug screening process through which pharmaceutical companies can submit both brand-name prescription drugs and unpatented generic drugs for evaluation, including certain fixed-dose combination antiretrovirals (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/30). However, the United States has not endorsed the WHO system. Instead, U.S. officials this week created an expedited review process to review new products that combine FDA-approved HIV/AIDS drugs into a fixed-dose pill and new co-packaging of existing treatments (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/18). Observers say the new program is an "easing of the U.S. position" and are "waiting to see" the outcome of the expected vote on Friday, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 5/19).
Swedish Funding for WHO 3 by 5 Initiative
The Swedish government on Tuesday announced it will donate $5.2 million to WHO's 3 by 5 Initiative (Agence France-Presse, 5/18). The initiative aims to treat three million people in the developing world with antiretroviral drugs by 2005 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/14). Approximately 40 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, and more than three million people died of AIDS-related causes in 2003, according to UNAIDS statistics. WHO estimates that five million HIV-positive people worldwide need antiretroviral treatment, but fewer than 400,000 currently have access to the medications (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/29). "HIV/AIDS has catastrophic consequences for the individual, families and the entire society. Therefore it is important that the international community contributes to fighting the epidemic, as WHO has encouraged us to do," Swedish Health and Social Minister Morgan Johansson said in a statement (Agence France-Presse, 5/18).