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).
Private Sector Involvement
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).
In a feature analysis, Devex examines the history of PEPFAR, the program’s sustainability, its use of public-private partnerships, and the potential impact of the closure earlier this month of the Global Health Initiative (GHI) office. Noting that next year marks the 10-year anniversary of PEPFAR, Devex concludes, “The Obama administration’s apparent about-face on components of GHI is but one reminder that in Washington — especially as administrations come and go — ideas, initiatives, and funding often fade away all too quickly. The U.S. foreign aid industry is no exception. If PEPFAR can continue its commitment to innovation and partnership, however, visitors to the U.S. capital this week [for the International AIDS Conference] can still be hopeful over America’s leadership role in the fight against HIV/AIDS” (Troilo/Piccio, 7/23).
The Guardian has analyzed “hundreds of food aid contracts awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2010-11 to show where the money goes,” the newspaper reports. “Two-thirds of food for the billion-dollar U.S. food aid program last year was bought from just three U.S.-based multinationals,” ADM, Cargill, and Bunge, the newspaper notes, adding that “these three agribusinesses sold the U.S. government 1.2 million tons of food, or almost 70 percent of the total bought” (Provost/Lawrence, 7/18). In a separate article, the Guardian writes, “Food aid has also become a valuable business for a variety of smaller food companies,” as well as shipping firms and non-governmental organizations (Provost, 7/19). In an interactive feature, the Guardian “[e]xplore[s] which companies sold food aid products to the government last year, what was bought, and where it was sent” (Provost/Hughes, 7/20). And another article describes how the newspaper analyzed the data (Hughes, 7/19).
In a health care exclusive feature, Devex examines the emerging field of mHealth, “the practice of using mobile devices for medicine and public health practices.” According to the article, “[t]echnology is getting cheaper” and “the development of low-cost or free open-source software is spreading,” which is why mHealth proponents say “mobile devices are ideal for improving health care consultations, data delivery and outcomes.” Devex highlights several mHealth programs and discusses USAID’s investments in the field. The article also examines “two major challenges” facing organizations working in mHealth: it is an interdisciplinary field, with little overlap in how computer scientists and public health officials communicate, and it is an emerging practice that is changing rapidly and “does not have a particularly rich history for researchers to mine for best practices” (Schiff, 7/16).
“High levels of unmet need for contraception around the world have a very negative impact on women’s and children’s health and survival as well as on the prosperity of communities and nations,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “If these women had access to dependable voluntary contraception, unintended pregnancies would fall by more than 70 percent, 100,000 fewer women would die in childbirth, and nearly 600,000 fewer newborns would die each year,” she continues, adding, “If every woman had the option to leave a two-year gap between a birth and a subsequent pregnancy, deaths of children under five would fall by 13 percent.”
Trade Agreements Could Harm Access To Antiretroviral Drugs In Asia, Pacific, Experts And Activists Warn
“Pressure on developing countries to adopt clauses affecting intellectual property rights could limit access to generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in Asia and the Pacific, experts and activists warn,” PlusNews reports. According to Steven Kraus, director of the UNAIDS program in Asia and the Pacific region, only about one-third of the people in need of treatment in the region receive it, and the long-term sustainability of even that proportion will be challenging in the current economic climate, the news service notes. Kraus said World Trade Organization (WTO) member states should take advantage of flexibilities under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to manufacture and procure generic versions of medications “to ensure sustainability and the significant scale-up of HIV services to reach people most in need,” PlusNews continues.
“The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria [on Wednesday] opened its first business forum in Bangkok to encourage more private-sector support in combating the three epidemics,” Thailand’s The Nation reports. “Under the theme ‘Investing in Asia-Pacific: Public Private Partnerships in Health,’ the Global Fund Business Forum, which ends [Thursday], is discussing various topics including the role of business in global health and business engagement in sustainable value creation,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Panel sessions on public-private partnerships are also being held in various areas.” “‘The continued and expanded engagement of private contributors is playing a critical role in ensuring the long-term success of the Global Fund and the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,’ said Dr. Christoph Benn, director for resource mobilization and donor relations,” according to The Nation (7/12).
“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).
The widespread incidence of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) “calls for a new approach to TB in the developing world,” a Bloomberg editorial states. A “breakthrough test,” called Xpert MTB/RIF, “makes mass screening [for drug-resistant TB] feasible,” according to the editorial, which notes the test, developed by “California-based Cephied Inc. in collaboration with the non-profit Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” detects resistance to the TB drug rifampicin, provides results in two hours, and can be used without advanced laboratory facilities.