WHO General Assembly Unanimously Approves Resolution To Expand Access to Antiretroviral Drugs
The 192 member nations of the World Health Organization's General Assembly on Saturday unanimously approved a draft resolution to increase access to HIV/AIDS treatment in low-income countries and supply them with low-cost, high-quality antiretroviral drugs, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 5/22). The resolution will help WHO succeed with its 3 by 5 Initiative, which aims to treat three million HIV-positive people in the developing world with antiretroviral drugs by 2005, Xinhua News reports (Xinhua News, 5/22). The resolution also calls for the "best use" of a World Trade Organization agreement that allows developing countries to waive patent laws to import generic drugs, including antiretrovirals, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 5/22). 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, 5/21). Saturday's vote marked the first time that the assembly has backed WHO's "controversial" prequalification system for medicines, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 5/22). The 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, 5/21). Although the United States has not endorsed the WHO system, it did not oppose the resolution on Saturday, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 5/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.