Ranbaxy’s Removal of AIDS Drugs From WHO-Approved Drug List ‘Adds Chilly Note’ to Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Editorial Says
The development of generic antiretroviral drugs has been "one of the few success stories" in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, as these medications "hold the power to sustain countries where up to one in five people is infected," a San Francisco Chronicle editorial says. However, the "crucial role" of generic drugs "may be in question" after Indian generic drug company Ranbaxy last week withdrew all seven of its generic antiretrovirals from the World Health Organization's list of approved drugs for HIV/AIDS patients, according to the Chronicle (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/15). Ranbaxy withdrew the drugs after discovering discrepancies in tests conducted to determine whether its generic medications were equivalent to brand-name versions of the same drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/10). Although Ranbaxy's drugs may be retested and reinstated, their removal "adds a chilly note to the AIDS fight" that a "once-considered dependable tool doesn't always measure up," the editorial says. Moreover, the negative results from equivalency tests of Ranbaxy's drugs also might "feed arguments" that the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief should purchase only brand-name antiretrovirals, which can cost five to 10 times as much as generics, according to the Chronicle. Generic antiretrovirals are "indispensable" in the fight against HIV/AIDS and "tak[ing] these pills away" would "plung[e]" countries with high HIV prevalence "into deeper trouble," the editorial says. Therefore, quicker drug safety tests should be developed, and the "United Nations must inspect and certify the mainstay generics before they reach wide use," according to the Chronicle. The United States also should "back a single international testing standard and drop its own rule-making, which serves major drugmakers better than AIDS patients," the editorial says, concluding, "Generic drugs are a mainstay in treating AIDS. They must be made more safe and reliable" (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.