“As Washington prepares for a major international AIDS conference this summer, developments on the drug front are once again elevating the subject of the continuing epidemic in the public eye,” CQ HealthBeat reports. The article mentions an FDA panel’s recent recommendation for the approval of Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus and a bill (S 1138) introduced last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) aimed at reducing the cost of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). The bill, which is focused on the cost of ARVs in the U.S., would “create a $3 billion ‘prize fund,’ through which [pharmaceutical] firms that bring a new HIV or AIDS medicine to market would get awards” in exchange for relinquishing patent rights to the drug, according to CQ (Norman, 5/18).
Private Sector Involvement
The Hill’s “Congress Blog” on Friday published two opinion pieces addressing global food security, the G8 summit, and the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security. The following are summaries of the pieces.
In a Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security on Friday, President Barack Obama “announced a plan to accelerate investments in developing world agriculture to meet rising food demands and improve nutrition, calling the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition a moral, economic and security imperative,” IIP Digital reports (Porter, 5/18). The new program, unveiled “in conjunction with African leaders from Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania, will parlay more than $3 billion in private assistance into a public-private partnership with an ambitious goal: lifting 50 million people from poverty over 10 years,” according to USA Today’s “The Oval” (Wolf, 5/18). The initiative “will constitute the next phase of a groundbreaking program begun during the 2009 G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy,” Inter Press Service writes (Brion, 5/18). More than 45 companies have pledged to invest in the initiative, Devex notes (Ravelo, 5/10). A fact sheet on the New Alliance is available on the White House website (5/18).
Obama To Announce New Initiative Aimed At Boosting African Agriculture In Advance Of G8 Summit This Weekend
On Friday, President Barack Obama is expected to announce “new investments in African agriculture in a speech in Washington … as a precursor to the weekend Group of Eight [G8] summit at Camp David, Maryland,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Bjerga, 5/18). “The president is scheduled to speak to African leaders at a summit on food security Friday,” VOA News writes, adding, “[The] new initiative is expected to target 50 million food-insecure people by boosting agricultural investments” (5/17). According to NPR’s “Morning Edition,” “The leaders of Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Ghana are among those in Washington to launch the new food security initiative, which [USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah] says will include several billion dollars in investments from private companies” (Kelemen, 5/18). “We are never going to end hunger in Africa without private investment,” Shah said, the New York Times writes (Strom, 5/17).
GlobalPost reports on the GBCHealth Conference, which took place in New York City on Monday and where “panelists at a session titled ‘AIDS@30’ were asked how they would fulfill U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call late last year for an ‘AIDS-free generation.'” According to the news service, “Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator, said the key will likely be a combination HIV prevention strategy” that “includes expansion of treatment to help prevent new infections; major scale-up of male circumcision; and treating all HIV-positive pregnant women to end the transmission of HIV from mother to child.” GlobalPost adds, “Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS executive director, said the way to defeat AIDS had to include more financial contributions from developing countries.” GlobalPost quotes several other conference attendees (Donnelly, 5/15).
“The worldwide counterfeit drug market is huge and growing,” Tim Mackey and Brian Liang of the Institute of Health Law Studies at the California Western School of Law and Thomas Kubic of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute write in a Foreign Policy opinion piece, noting such “drugs occupy a wide spectrum of medications, and their quality is suspect; they can be mislabeled, tainted, adulterated, ineffective, or, in the worst cases, all of the above.” They argue for a new framework for fighting the illegal drug trade because “[g]lobal policy has not kept up with the burgeoning counterfeit drug trade.” The authors say that although initial results of the WHO IMPACT (International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeit Taskforce) are “encouraging,” they note that “[s]ome WHO member states, including India and Brazil (both top producers of generic drugs) and other developing countries, have questioned whether WHO can rightly take on enforcement operations” because it “is not a global law enforcement agency.”
The National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a pilot program under which “three pharmaceutical companies have agreed to make dozens of their failed compounds available to researchers, who will investigate if the compounds can be re-purposed into successful treatments for other diseases,” Ashley Bennett, senior policy associate at the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), writes in the group’s “Breakthroughs” blog. “With this new therapeutics program, NIH and NCATS have created an exciting, innovative model for collaboration between the public and private sectors. … Now NCATS must ensure that research for neglected diseases is encouraged and supported through this initiative,” Bennett says (5/7).
In a “wide-ranging,” two-part interview with AllAfrica.com, Unni Karunakara, the international president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), “spoke about the values that underpin the work of MSF, the organization’s culture and its passion for principled humanitarian action,” the news service writes. “Humanitarian aid has come a long way in the last 40 years, says … Karunakara, but he warns that important health care gains made in the last decade may be reversed if funding is not maintained,” the news service notes. In part one of the interview, Karunakara discusses “gains made in reducing medicine costs and providing treatment for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,” as well as “the challenges MSF faces in remaining independent and principled in conflict situations.” In part two of the interview, “he looks at the future of MSF in a changing world” (Valentine, 5/7).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog notes that PEPFAR recently released its 8th annual report (.pdf) to Congress. “The five-page document outlines the program’s progress as of the end of fiscal year 2011 in various areas,” including the provision of antiretroviral treatment, care, and support; HIV testing and counseling for pregnant women; and prevention of mother-to-child transmission services, the blog notes. The report includes sections on “leading with science,” “smart investments,” “country ownership,” and “shared responsibility,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 5/4).
Ghana’s recent “rollout of the rotavirus vaccine and, to much acclaim, a new vaccine against pneumococcal infections, [makes it] the first country in sub-Saharan African to introduce two new vaccines at the same time,” the Guardian reports. The immunization campaign, organized by the Ghanaian government and the GAVI Alliance in partnership with other international agencies, philanthropies and the private sector, is “expected to save thousands of lives,” the newspaper notes. “That GAVI has deemed Ghana able to introduce rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines together is a vote of confidence in the country’s ability to establish a ‘cold chain,'” a refrigeration network necessary to keep the vaccines viable, according to the Guardian.