‘Unproven, Outmoded’ Generic AIDS Drugs ‘Endangered’ Many Lives in Developing Countries, Opinion Piece Says
Although the World Health Organization and Medecins Sans Frontieres have "saved many lives," the groups also have "endangered almost as many with their strategy of using unproven and outmoded" generic antiretroviral drugs in developing countries, Carol Adelman, senior fellow and director of the Center for Science in Public Policy at the Hudson Institute and former assistant administrator at USAID, writes in a Wall Street Journal Europe opinion piece. Adelman says that although these less-expensive generics "are supposed to be just as effective" as brand-name versions, "they are not." WHO and MSF have "insisted on buying the cheapest drugs on the market, while ducking safety and efficacy concerns," Adelman says. However, that "legacy is catching up with the WHO and [nongovernmental organizations like MSF]" because "[f]ocusing on the cheapest drugs has caused real damage" in treating diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria in developing countries, Adelman writes. Although the generic antiretrovirals made by some drug companies -- including Indian drug makers Cipla, Ranbaxy and Hetero Drugs -- have never been submitted to FDA or the European Medicines Agency for approval, "these are the same drugs that were recommended by the WHO up until the delistings and recent withdrawals" from WHO's prequalification list, Adelman says, adding that WHO should "do as much to use this experience to develop recall procedures for taking other unproven drugs off its approved list." The removals mark a "victory for poor AIDS patients throughout the world," but the "world needs to know how we got to this deplorable stage -- the disregard for health care standards that the WHO was created to foster," Adelman writes, concluding that the organization "needs to convene an independent panel of experts ... and seek their guidance before it continues with business as usual. It's high time we give the world's poor the very best medicine that the world has to offer. The cost of the status quo is too painful to bear" (Adelman, Wall Street Journal Europe, 12/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.