“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).
Private Sector Involvement
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).
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.