After Cipro Patent Debate, Americans Should Understand Developing Countries’ Need for Cheaper AIDS Drugs, New York Times Editorial States
The Bush administration is "derailing efforts by poor countries ravaged by AIDS" to increase access to AIDS drugs by removing patent barriers and allowing generic competition in times of public health emergencies, yet the administration has taken steps similar to the ones it opposes to obtain price concessions from Bayer for its patented anthrax drug Cipro, a New York Times editorial notes. The United States, "echoing drug makers," opposes a proposal, to be voted on at the Nov. 9 meeting of the World Trade Organization in Doha, Qatar, that says "nothing" in WTO patent rules would prevent governments from issuing compulsory licenses or using parallel importing to obtain cheaper medications in times of national health emergencies. The United States and Switzerland -- two countries that house several multinational drug makers -- maintain that patents are "not a significant barrier to AIDS treatment" and have proposed a "weaker version" that "puts less weight on public health needs and does not fix some important barriers to cheaper drugs, especially one that will prohibit countries that can make generics from exporting them to nations that lack the capacity," the editorial states. Although "[i]t is true that other problems, including lack of trained people to deliver the medicines," hinder AIDS treatment, "patents that keep drug prices high are a major reason" that AIDS drugs are "out of reach" for much of the developing world, the editorial continues. In light of the recent anthrax scare in the United States, "Americans today can surely understand the need to give poor countries every possible weapon to fight back" against AIDS, the editorial concludes (New York Times, 10/31).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.