Strategy of Fighting HIV/AIDS With Generic Antiretroviral Drugs ‘In Shambles,’ Opinion Piece Says
The World Health Organization's and other nongovernmental organizations' strategies of supplying generic antiretroviral drugs to HIV/AIDS patients in Africa is "in shambles" and "almost certainly making people sicker," American Enterprise Institute fellow James Glassman writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. The "ostensible" reason WHO and other NGOs -- including Medecins Sans Frontieres and the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation -- have "aggressively promoted" generic drugs from India, Thailand, South Africa and elsewhere is cost, but a study by the Hudson Institute found that the average price of patented medications in developing nations is less than the cost of generic drugs in those countries, according to Glassman. The generic antiretroviral drugs also are "unverified," Glassman says. The Indian generic drug company Ranbaxy's removal of all seven of its antiretroviral drugs from WHO's approved list of drugs and the agency's removal of two generic antiretrovirals made by the Indian drug firm Cipla earlier this year "vindicated" U.S. policy, which requires FDA approval of all antiretroviral drugs purchased under the five-year, $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, according to Glassman. The "real" reason for WHO's generic drug strategy is "vicious political animosity toward the United States and the research pharmaceutical companies," Glassman writes. If the strategy continues, there is a "danger" that a "poorly made copy of a patented drug" might be weak enough for HIV to adapt to it "through mutation and become resistant," and such drug-resistant strains would require "far more expensive drugs" and could "migrate to countries like the United States," Glassman says. "Stubborn advocates of the current policy must stop playing deadly political games with the world's health," Glassman writes, concluding, "At the very least, Congress should investigate the U.N. strategy and reconsider American funding" (Glassman, Washington Times, 11/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.