Emory University Should Use $525M Deal To Ensure HIV/AIDS Treatment Access for People in Developing World, Opinion Piece SaysEmory University should be congratulated for its recent intellectual property deal in which it will receive $525 million in royalties for an antiretroviral drug developed by its researchers, but the university should use some of the money to establish a foundation "to assure access to affordable HIV/AIDS drugs worldwide," George Rust, a professor of family medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine, writes in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion piece (Rust, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/27). Emory University last week announced it will sell the rights to an antiretroviral drug developed by its scientists to Gilead Sciences and Royalty Pharma in exchange for a one-time payment of $525 million. The drug, called Emtriva and known generically as emtricitabine, was approved by FDA in July 2003 and works by blocking an enzyme that is necessary for HIV replication. Under the terms of the agreement, Gilead will pay Emory $341 million to acquire 65% of the intellectual property rights to Emtriva and Royalty Pharma will pay Emory $184 million for the other 35% of the rights (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/19). "Let us reflect on the half a billion dollars in capital investment that will now be built into the pricing of this drug for the next decade," a cost that will be born "by AIDS patients themselves, by employers and employees whose pharmacy benefit premiums will rise, and by taxpayers who will subsidize this cost through Medicaid and other state and federal programs," Rust says. Instead of selling the rights to the drug, the researchers could have obtained the patent and provided an open license for other nations such as Brazil, India or South Africa to produce the drug at an affordable price for HIV-positive people in the developing world, Rust says, adding, "Perhaps it is not too late" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/27).
Investment Needed for Other Diseases
"[I]nvesting in new research on AIDS and other leading causes of death may have much more lasting impact" than establishing a foundation, Pat Marsteller, director of the Emory College Center for Science Education, says in a Journal-Constitution opinion piece in response to Rust's opinion piece. Although HIV/AIDS is "an international tragedy," many other preventable diseases -- including heart disease, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria, parasitic diseases and diabetes -- "account for more deaths worldwide," Marsteller says, adding that these diseases require "investment in social science research, prevention and efforts to end poverty and famine." She concludes, "Before implying that Emory researchers are not focused on the public good because they benefit from their intellectual property, perhaps Rust and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution might investigate the long-term impact of the funds invested in human intellectual capital" (Marsteller, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/28).