The WHO and FDA approve drugs to treat malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases in low- and middle-income countries, but “some of the manufacturers, predominantly Chinese and Indian firms, may be knowingly producing” poor quality medicines, according to “the conclusion of my research teams’ studies, published this week in the journal Research and Reports in Tropical Medicine,” Roger Bate, resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute and lead author of the studies, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. “With little or no oversight, these companies may be cutting corners in the manufacturing process — or worse, watering down the active ingredient in their drugs, perhaps when the price of the raw material spikes and supply becomes harder to obtain,” he states, adding, “By exposing people to insufficient doses of the active ingredient, the drugs may also accelerate drug resistance and cause tremendous harm to whole populations in the long run.”
Access to Health Services
The London Summit on Family Planning took place Wednesday, also recognized as World Population Day. The goal of the summit was to raise money to improve access to family planning services to prevent maternal and child mortality. The following summaries describe opinion pieces that address these issues.
PEPFAR “is recommending improvements to efforts to detect [tuberculosis (TB)] in settings offering health services to pregnant women, women with HIV, newborns, and children,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. The blog outlines the recommendations of the PMTCT/Pediatric HIV Technical Working Group, which said the decision to produce guidelines for integrating TB screening into maternal and child HIV programs was based on “[r]ecent studies [that] have shown that HIV-infected pregnant women are at increased risk of transmitting both TB and HIV to their infants” (Barton, 7/11).
On World Population Day, observed on Wednesday, July 11, the U.K. Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-hosted the London Summit on Family Planning. The following are summaries of blog posts addressing the summit.
In this post in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, Katherine Record, a senior fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, explains “[w]hy the wall between the scientific advancements in AIDS treatment and the treatment itself needs to be broken down in order to truly achieve an ‘AIDS-free generation.'” She writes, “The U.S. is pushing its patent laws on trade partners, forcing them to adopt the most robust and longest monopoly rights in the world,” adding, “The result is a move away from the World Trade Organization’s safeguards against prohibitive pricing of lifesaving drugs in low-income nations, deferring any hope of an ‘AIDS-free generation.'”
“Voluntary family planning services will reach an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries by 2020 thanks to a new set of commitments announced [at the London Summit on Family Planning on Wednesday] by more than 150 leaders from donor and developing countries, international agencies, civil society, foundations and the private sector,” a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation press release reports (7/11). Donors “pledged $2.6 billion over the next eight years at [the summit], in what was described as a breakthrough for the world’s poorest women and girls,” the Guardian writes, adding, “More than 20 developing countries made commitments to boost spending on family planning and to strengthen women’s rights to ease their access to contraception” (Tran, 7/11). Speaking at the summit, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, announced the foundation “will spend more than $1 billion over the next eight years to increase access to contraceptives in the developing world and research new methods of birth control” and “outlined several of the initiatives [the foundation] will focus on in the coming years, including efforts to bring down the cost of birth control so that it will be within reach of the world’s poorest women,” the Seattle Times notes (Doughton, 7/11).
Early treatment with antiretroviral medication can significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission to an uninfected sexual partner, “[b]ut many logistical hurdles stand in the way of making this strategy feasible, affordable and effective, according to experts writing in Tuesday’s edition of the journal PLoS Medicine,” the Los Angeles Times reports. Though Science magazine hailed the finding as “breakthrough of the year” in 2011, “[e]xperts are now divided about whether the treatment-as-prevention approach can essentially halt the AIDS epidemic,” the newspaper writes (Loury, 7/11). The PLoS Medicine collection, which includes nine reviews and one research article, “provide insights into the factors which will support evidence-based decision-making in HIV prevention, with a focus on the use of antiretroviral treatment to prevent HIV transmission,” according to the collection’s homepage (7/10).
Describing PEPFAR as “a targeted approach on a large-scale and with accountability for results,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby on Tuesday said the program has done more than fight HIV/AIDS, having had a “broader transformational impact … on the health sector” in many countries, VOA News reports (De Capua, 7/10). Goosby delivered the keynote address at a Health Affairs briefing titled, “Assessing The President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief: Past Achievements And Future Prospects For PEPFAR,” according to a State Department video of his remarks (7/10). The July 2012 issue of Health Affairs “examines the origins of [PEPFAR]; the lessons learned from implementation; the successes achieved in terms of human health and well-being; and the opportunities that now exist to lay the groundwork for an ‘AIDS-free generation,'” the Health Affairs Blog states (Fleming, 7/10).
As part of its “Young people’s sexual health matters” series, the Guardian reports on a recent roundtable discussion hosted by the newspaper, in association with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), during which experts discussed key family planning issues ahead of the July 11 London Summit. “There was widespread agreement around the table that while increasing the physical supply of contraceptives to women in the developing world was crucial, it had to go hand-in-hand with better education about sex and relationships and a focus on rights,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Family planning — an unfortunate, old-fashioned term, some said — has long suffered from being associated by critics with population control” (Williams, 7/10).
Gates Foundation, U.K. Government Expected To Announce Additional Funding For Family Planning At London Summit
The U.K. Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with UNFPA and other partners on Wednesday, July 11, are hosting the London Summit on Family Planning, which aims “to raise $4 billion to expand access to contraception for 120 million women in the developing world by 2020,” according to Reuters. At the summit, the Gates Foundation “is set to unveil funding a sum in the hundreds of millions of dollars for a campaign to improve access to contraception in the developing world,” the news service notes (Wickham, 7/10). In addition, the U.K. government will “pledge to donate more than one billion pounds [$1.6 billion] to help family planning services in the developing world,” the Independent writes (Pickover, 7/11). The WHO “committed to fast-track its assessment of new and existing quality contraceptives so more women in low- and middle-income countries can obtain and use a broader range of safe and effective contraceptive products,” the agency reports in a media note (7/11).