Diagnostics company Cepheid on Monday signed deals with PEPFAR, USAID, UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to immediately reduce the price of its Xpert MTB/RIF test kit for its GeneXpert tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic system in 145 countries, Reuters reports. “The agreements will see the test sold for $9.98, down from its current price of $16.86 per test,” the news service writes, adding, “Cepheid said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will make an initial payment of $3.5 million to make the test immediately available at the lower price” (Ail, 8/6).
Private Sector Involvement
Extreme weather is forcing grain and meat prices to rise, and food production will have to increase about 60 percent over the next 40 years to meet a growing world population, but “there are solutions to these daunting problems,” Catherine Bertini, former director of the U.N. World Food Programme and the 2003 World Food Prize laureate, and Dan Glickman, former secretary of agriculture, write in a Politico opinion piece. The authors, co-chairs of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Global Agricultural Development Initiative, say that in order to address these issues, “we should increase support for the agricultural researchers, in the U.S. and around the world, who are developing remarkable new drought and flood tolerant crop varieties”; make better use of arable land, especially in Africa; provide “farmers access to improved seeds, pesticides and fertilizers to boost productivity”; improve post-harvest infrastructure, including storage facilities; and “equip those working in agriculture, especially women, with the know-how to use newer technologies.”
In this post in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Rhonda Zygocki, executive vice president of policy and planning at Chevron, responds to questions about Chevron’s presence at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., last week, writing that such questions “give me an opportunity to talk about the critical role everyone plays in the global fight against this epidemic, including Chevron, as well as the ways collaborative partnerships will lead to the elimination of AIDS.” She highlights the company’s HIV prevention efforts, including a pledge last year of $20 million to the U.N.’s mission to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015, and continues, “Individuals, non-profit organizations, medical practitioners, representatives of governments, and companies from the private sector joined together in Washington, D.C., with the same vision: to create an HIV-free generation and eliminate AIDS around the world” (8/1).
The XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that took place last week in Washington, D.C., “ignited momentum to shift from ‘fighting AIDS’ to ‘ending AIDS,'” Mohga Kamal-Yanni, senior health adviser at Oxfam International, and Urvarshi Rajcoomer, policy and advocacy adviser at Oxfam in South Africa, write in a Mail & Guardian opinion piece. “Oxfam believes investing in health systems such as infrastructure and health worker, drug supply chain and health information systems, is a critical prerequisite to ending AIDS,” they write. However, “to make this a reality,” pharmaceutical companies, donor governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Bank “must now do their part,” they continue.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday “announced the members of a High-level Panel to advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date for achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The eight MDGs, agreed on by world leaders at a U.N. summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development,'” the news service writes (7/31).
“The world’s first vaccine against dengue fever, being developed by French drugmaker Sanofi SA, protected against three of the virus’s four strains in a keenly awaited clinical trial in Thailand,” the company announced on Wednesday, Reuters reports (Hirschler/Regan, 7/25). “The vaccine actually generated antibody responses against all four strains of the virus, but for some reason, one strain was still able to infect children who received the vaccine, the company said, and scientists are now trying to figure out why,” the Los Angeles Times’ “Science Now” blog reports, adding, “Meanwhile, a much larger trial involving 31,000 adults and children is now under way in 10 countries in Asia and Latin America” (Maugh, 7/26). Reuters notes, “Other drug companies are also working on dengue vaccines but Sanofi’s product is several years ahead” (7/25).
Simon Reid-Henry, a lecturer in the School of Geography at Queen Mary, University of London and a senior fellow at the Peace Research Institute, and Hans Lofgren, an associate professor in politics at Deakin University in Melbourne, write in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” about “a triple-pronged attack on [India’s] generic drug manufacturers by the west.” They discuss the European Union-India free trade agreement, currently being negotiated; an Indian supreme court case between Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis and the Indian government; and an “attempt by German pharmaceutical company Bayer to revoke the recent granting of a compulsory license for an Indian firm, Natco Pharma.” If the west is successful in any of these attempts, it “could delay the introduction of cheaper medicines in India and elsewhere at a time when the global financial crisis has already put the squeeze on life-saving medicines across the world,” they write (7/26).
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, in an interview with the Guardian, “said he was passionately committed to ending absolute poverty, which threatens survival and makes progress impossible for the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day,” the news service writes. According to the Guardian, Kim “is determined to eradicate global poverty through goals, targets and measuring success in the same way that he masterminded an AIDS drugs campaign for poor people nearly a decade ago,” and he “will set ‘a clear, simple goal’ in the eradication of absolute poverty” (Boseley, 7/25). In a related post in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, Kim speaks to correspondent John Donnelly “about the Bank’s focus on eradicating poverty and fighting AIDS.” “Good health is always going to remain a part of a much larger agenda to move people out of poverty,” he says in the interview, adding, “The Bank’s focus has appropriately been on health systems” (7/24).
Noting successes with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and PEPFAR, as well as other domestic and international programs, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) writes in a Politico opinion piece, “But this is not enough.” He continues, “The Obama administration has the opportunity to push for policies that can offer developing nations more access to generic ARV therapies,” including supporting intellectual property rules under the Trans-Pacific Partnership “that would help speed up — not impede — generic drug competition in countries like Vietnam.” Waxman adds, “We should also back efforts to give developing countries more flexibility in interpreting the World Trade Organization’s patent rules for medicines,” and the administration “should … promote the Medicines Patent Pool, a bold initiative to bring down prices of HIV medicines by encouraging pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily license their patents and allow generic manufacturers to sell in developing countries.” Waxman concludes that the U.S. should be proud of its leadership on HIV/AIDS, “[b]ut our work is far from done. Supporting reliable access to generic medicines in the developing world is a much-needed step in getting us there” (7/24).
OPINION: Partnerships, Dedication Within Pharmaceutical Industry Have 'Contributed Greatly' To AIDS Progress
PhRMA President and CEO John Castellani reflects on the role of partnerships and dedication within the pharmaceutical industry in the global AIDS response in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, writing, “The determination to research and develop medicines to fight HIV/AIDS has contributed greatly to the steady decrease in AIDS-related deaths worldwide, from the peak of 2.1 million in 2004 to an estimated 1.8 million in 2009, according to the 2010 UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic.” He highlights three global AIDS challenges — “ensuring new medicines and training are available on an emergency basis, forging innovative partnerships that build a sustainable infrastructure that enables safe delivery of treatment and licensing manufacturing to foreign governments to allow patients to access lower cost or no cost treatments” — discusses recent progress, and concludes, “Our determination and pursuit of eradication lives in the 88 medicines and vaccines currently in development and the research that is currently under way at dozens of facilities across the world” (7/24).