In the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, Leena Menghaney, a lawyer and India manager of the Access Campaign at Medecins Sans Frontieres, writes about “two critical legal battles between multinational pharmaceutical companies and the Indian government [that] are taking center stage in an ongoing struggle over India’s medicines patent law.” Before describing each case in detail, she summarizes, “One case goes to the heart of what merits a patent. The other addresses what countries can do when patented life-saving medicines are priced out of reach for the vast majority of patients.” Menghaney concludes, “The world is watching closely, as these cases could have a profound impact on access to life-saving medicines for millions of people worldwide” (10/1).
Private Sector Involvement
“India has had a positive global impact through its supply of vast quantities of low-cost, good-quality generic medicines, which have saved or prolonged millions of lives … [b]ut there are also many factors that may hinder the continuation of the [country’s] role as chief supplier of medicines to developing countries,” Martin Khor, executive director of the South Centre in Geneva, writes in an Inter Press Service opinion piece. He examines the history of generic drug production in India and says the 1995 World Trade Organization TRIPS agreement negatively affected the country’s ability to produce generic drugs. Though “India has one of the best patent laws in the world that still gives some space to its producers to make generic drugs, … it is also true that the old policy space has been eroded because many new drugs have, since 2005, been patented by multinational companies that are selling them at exorbitant prices,” Khor writes.
The Coca-Cola Company and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have announced the expansion of a pilot project, called “Project Last Mile,” that uses Coca Cola’s “‘expansive global distribution system and core business expertise’ to help deliver critical medicines to remote parts of the world, beginning in rural Africa,” Pharma Times reports. “The public-private partnership was established in 2010 to help Tanzania’s government-run medicine distribution network, Medical Stores Department, build a more efficient supply chain by using Coca-Cola’s” delivery system model, the news service writes, adding, “The latest phase of the partnership, developed in cooperation with the likes of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Accenture and Yale University, will increase the availability of critical medicines to 75 percent of Tanzania and expand the initiative to Ghana and Mozambique” (Grogan, 9/26).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Christine Rousseau, a program officer at the foundation, describes the importance of diagnostics in HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) care and treatment and writes, “This brings me to the tremendous role that China’s entrepreneurs can play as partners in global health. China is a country with a huge capacity for innovation as well as the resources required to create new products. We believe that China is uniquely positioned to develop new health technologies that can benefit people in the developing world faster and more effectively than product developers elsewhere.” She notes “the HIV and TB teams of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be presenting the business case for a new generation of diagnostics to Chinese researchers, product developers, and investors at the China Diagnostics Conference in Shanghai on September 25 and 26” (9/24).
In a post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” CARE President and CEO Helene Gayle describes a new multi-partner initiative, called “Women and Girls Lead Global,” which aims to spread “the stories of … resilient women and girls” through documentary films that will air in nine countries over three years. The goal of the initiative, which is sponsored by CARE, USAID, the Independent Television Service (ITVS), and the Ford Foundation, “is to educate and inspire the public to take action on the development challenges and gender inequities that girls and women face,” she writes. Gayle concludes, “I encourage you to explore the Women and Girls Lead Global website, where you will find film clips and interactive activities. These girls and women have a story to tell, and with your support, their achievements will start a ripple of change in communities around the world” (9/24).
“Some academics and non-profit organizations are skeptical of the motives of the increasing number of multinational companies who seek partnerships to address non-communicable diseases (NCDs),” Derek Yach, senior vice president of global health and agriculture policy at PepsiCo and former head of NCDs at WHO, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. He asks, “So how well is the private sector doing in tackling the rising pandemic of NCDs, which cause nearly two out of every three deaths in the world (80 percent of those in developing countries), the four main ones being cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes?” He continues, “The private sector is a major stakeholder in many ways — as employers; makers of food and medicines, sports gear and technology; as corporate citizens and consumers — and wants to be engaged in the global NCD dialogue. We deserve a seat at the table.”
French drug maker Sanofi on Thursday announced a new three-year research collaboration agreement with the TB Alliance “to accelerate the discovery and development of novel compounds against tuberculosis,” RTTNews reports (9/20). “According to company material, the projects will explore a compound which researchers believe has potential to treat all forms of tuberculosis, investigate another class of natural derivatives that has shown ‘impressive’ activity against tuberculosis bacteria, and identify future candidates for development among chemical compounds in Sanofi’s collection,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog writes (Barton, 9/20). RTTNews notes, “Sanofi, which discovered rifampicin in the early 1960s, markets several anti-tuberculosis drugs” (9/20).
The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm) — an innovative financing mechanism that subsidizes the cost of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) in order to expand access to the most effective treatment for malaria — “brought more than 100 million doses of malaria drugs to clinics and pharmacies in 2011” and “also increased access to the top malaria medicines by 26 to 52 percent in six countries,” according to results from the first phase of the program, which is hosted and managed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. The results of the evaluation, released on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., do not estimate how many lives were saved because of improved access to effective malaria medications, as “AMFm ran for only a year and half in most countries,” according to the blog. “The AMFm negotiated with drugmakers to reduce ACTs prices, and then the Global Fund subsidized the initial purchasing of the drugs by clinics and pharmacies,” the blog notes.
Bill Gates Describes How 'Catalytic Philanthropy' Can Help Bring Vaccines, Medicines To Untouched Markets
In an essay adapted for Forbes magazine from a speech given at the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy in June, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses how “[i]nnovations for the poor suffer from … market limitations” and his idea of “catalytic philanthropy.” Gates writes, “The market is not going to place huge bets on research when there are no buyers for a breakthrough. This explains why we have no vaccine for malaria today, even though a million people die from it every year.” Therefore, “when you come to the end of the innovations that business and government are willing to invest in, you still find a vast, unexplored space of innovation where the returns can be fantastic,” he continues.
With nearly 6,000 reported cholera cases, including more than 100 deaths, Guinea is facing the worst cholera outbreak since 2007, and “some residents of the capital Conakry are clamoring to be vaccinated,” IRIN reports. “The cholera vaccine has shown promising results in the handful of communities where it has been used: none of those vaccinated have been infected,” the news service writes, noting, “For now cholera vaccination is not generally done on a large scale.” According to IRIN, “WHO and partner agencies are planning a cholera vaccine stockpile for epidemic control and looking at the possibility of introducing the two-dose oral vaccine into national immunization programs in endemic areas,” but the agency also “says such stockpiles should not detract from other prevention efforts: detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cases with oral rehydration and antibiotics; establishment of a safe water supply; implementation of adequate waste disposal, sanitation, and hygiene; and communication and social mobilization.”