Antiretrovirals To Remain in Short Supply if Steps Not Taken, WHO Official Says; AHF Criticizes GSK for Retrovir Supply
Developing countries by 2010 will continue to experience a shortfall in their supply of low-cost antiretroviral drugs unless measures to solve the problem are taken quickly, Jim Yong Kim, outgoing World Health Organization director for HIV/AIDS, said, BMJ reports. After the Group of Eight industrialized nations summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in July, Kim said that approximately eight to 10 million people will need HIV/AIDS treatment (Zarocostas, BMJ, 11/12). At the meeting, the G8 agreed to increase efforts to provide universal access to HIV/AIDS treatments by 2010, as well as encourage research into vaccines for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/8). Kim, who in December is stepping down from his post, said he is unsure if such a goal could be achieved, adding, "We think it's impossible for the holders of intellectual property to supply that need at the price that we're looking for." Harvey Bale, director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, said, "It's simply premature to make a forecast for 2010," adding that IFPMA for eight months has been asking WHO to agree to a joint team to expand demand forecasting. Bale said that if companies knew which antiretrovirals were in demand, they could respond. Kim suggested that markets in developed countries should be protected so research-based industry has an incentive to develop new HIV/AIDS drugs. He also said that a "humanitarian corridor" should be created to allow low-cost producers, such as China, to provide drugs to African nations at lower prices (BMJ, 11/12).
AHF Criticizes GSK for Retrovir Supply
GlaxoSmithKline is not increasing production of the antiretroviral Retrovir, also known as zidovudine, despite an increase in demand, according to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, PlusNews reports (PlusNews, 11/11). The patent on azidothymidine, or AZT -- the main ingredient in Retrovir -- expired in September (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/21). Retrovir's European patent expires in March 2006, PlusNews reports. AHF President Michael Weinstein on Thursday said, "It is obvious -- it is not a coincidence that this happens at this point in time, as patents expire. They (GSK) were producing in ample supply until they lost their stranglehold." AHF in a statement said GSK is aware of the increase in demand for Retrovir, mostly because of an increase in funding in developing countries from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. AHF said GSK, expecting increased competition from generic manufacturers after the patent expired, intended to profit before the patent expired instead of increasing production to meet demand following the expiration. However, generic manufacturers have been unable to meet the increased demand for the drug. A GSK spokesperson said, "We have seen an increase in orders since PEPFAR, we think that is great news -- but we didn't know how fast PEPFAR would be implemented and how fast governments would place orders" (PlusNews, 11/11).