“Indonesia’s government has quietly issued an order to override the patents on seven important medicines used to treat people with HIV and hepatitis B and allow cheap versions to be made by local drug companies,” Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley reports in her “Global Health Blog.” “The ‘government use’ order was made on 3 September, but with no fanfare and, as yet, no public outcry from the pharmaceutical giants which, in the past, used to defend their patents volubly and aggressively — through the courts as well as diplomatic back-channels,” Boseley writes (10/11). Reuters notes the move “follow[s] the lead” of other Asian nations, including India and China, “that have allowed the production of cheap generic drugs that cut into the sales of global pharmaceutical companies” (Bigg/Hirschler, 10/12).
The Financial Times has published a special report (.pdf) on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) featuring 10 articles examining issues including prevention, research, and treatment.
“The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has launched an online resource to help civil society and patient groups in developing countries challenge unwarranted drug patents,” an MSF press release reports. “MSF’s Patent Opposition Database comes as many developing countries are facing dramatically high drug prices because patents are blocking the production of lower-cost generic versions of medicines,” the press release states, adding the database “will allow organizations to forge new alliances and share vital specialist knowledge, as a patent application can often be challenged in different countries on the same basis” (10/5).
The Harvard School of Public Health announced on Thursday that Regina Rabinovich, former director of infectious diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been chosen to be the ExxonMobil Malaria Scholar in Residence, “where she will focus on innovative strategies to combat malaria,” according to a Harvard press release. “The ExxonMobil Malaria Scholar in Residence program is one of several activities under a new cross-university initiative called ‘Defeating Malaria: From the Genes to the Globe,’ which aims to produce, transmit and translate knowledge to support the control and ultimate eradication of malaria,” the press release states, adding, “Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), in collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute, is spearheading the effort, which is being launched in partnership with the United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria. The ExxonMobil Foundation is funding the one-year residency program” (10/4).
Foreign Policy reports on “a recent study by Ashley Fox of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine [that] compares rates of HIV infection across 170 regions in 16 sub-Saharan African countries.” Fox “found that in the poorest regions, it was richer people who were more likely to be infected with HIV, while in wealthier regions, the poor were more at risk,” the magazine writes, adding, “The reason, she argues, is that AIDS acts more like a chronic condition, such as obesity, than the infectious disease it is.” “In the three decades since it was identified, AIDS has gone through a remarkable socioeconomic mutation, from a condition closely identified with gay men in urban areas of the United States to one synonymous with poverty in the developing world,” Foreign Policy continues, adding, “Fox’s data suggest that despite more than 30 million deaths over the past 30-odd years, it’s still a disease we don’t understand very well” (Keating, November 2012).
The PEPFAR scientific advisory board met this week to discuss implementation science; reaching key populations, such as drug users and men who have sex with men; and coordinating HIV testing, prevention, treatment and care efforts, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “When [efficiency, impact, and the relevance of targets] are weighed against intentions and costs, the discipline at work is called ‘implementation science,’ and that is the science, PEPFAR leadership is hoping, that will bring the possibilities of biomedical advances and commitment to fruition,” the blog writes. U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby discussed the disconnect between the people planning HIV/AIDS services and those for whom services are intended, according to the blog (Barton, 10/4).
Blog Summarizes Analyses Examining Possible Effects Of Sequestration On Global Health, Science Research
The Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog examines “the likely devastating impact of sequestration on U.S.-funded global health, research, science, and development programs” and summarizes several recently released reports on potential budget cuts. The blog outlines the findings of an updated analysis from amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, which examines the possible human and global health impacts of budget sequestration; a new analysis from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that says sequestration would “no doubt have significant impacts on federal funding of science, research, and innovation”; a document (.pdf) from Bread for the World that examines the potential impact of sequestration on the international affairs budget; and an updated analysis (.pdf) from Research!America looking at how sequestration could affect health research and science at several U.S. agencies (Lufkin, 10/4).
“Police and regulators around the world have closed 18,000 online pharmacy sites in the past few days, in the largest ever clampdown on criminal gangs selling unauthorized medicines online,” the Financial Times reports. “Operation Pangaea V, coordinated over the past week by Interpol and involving authorities in 100 countries, led to the seizure of 3.7 million doses of unlicensed and counterfeit drugs worth more than Â£6.5 million [$10.5 million] and the arrests of 79 people,” the news service writes (Jack, 10/4). “The aim of this week’s Interpol crackdown … was to ‘disrupt and dismantle’ the internet networks which sell and distribute the bogus drugs,” according to the Daily Mail, which notes, “It’s claimed the producers are raking in millions of pounds through the illicit trade every month, with much of the money funneled back to organized crime syndicates in Russia” (Hodgekiss, 10/4). “This is the fifth year of a coordinated action against websites selling illegal and sometimes fake medicines,” the Guardian writes (Boseley, 10/4). “It is estimated Â£1.5 million [$2.4 million] of orders are placed globally every month,” BBC Radio 4’s “You and Yours” reports (Abbott, 10/4).
In a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Gary Darmstadt, head of the Family Health Division of the foundation, Wendy Prosser, a research analyst with the Family Health division, and Wolfgang Munar, senior program officer in the Family Health Division, examine how knowledge networks “can be leveraged to bring upstream technologies to downstream adoption in order to achieve impact at scale,” writing, “Knowledge networks link people across disciplines and sectors to keep members abreast of new ideas, data, evidence and practical applications.” They continue, “These networks are instrumental in sharing knowledge, generating ideas, and bringing innovation like [exclusive breastfeeding and life-saving vaccines] to spread to all those who need them” (10/3).
“A malaria drug made by India’s Cipla has been pre-qualified by the World Health Organization (WHO), an important step towards its roll-out across Asia, where millions of people are infected with the mosquito-borne disease every year,” Reuters reports. “The drug, which has already been used to treat 18,000 adults in India, is intended as the first-line treatment in a number of South East Asian countries, Cipla and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative said in a joint statement on Wednesday,” the news service writes (10/3). “The pre-qualified status means the drug meets WHO standards of quality, safety and efficacy, making it eligible for bulk procurement under programs that receive funding from international agencies like the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” Fox Business notes (Ahmed, 10/3). The pill is the first to offer a combination of drugs in one tablet, and it requires a single daily dose of one or two tablets over three days, according to a video report from Al Jazeera (10/3).