Generic AIDS Drugs the Best Hope for Many

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 21, 2004 | Go to article overview

Generic AIDS Drugs the Best Hope for Many


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Cheap, safe, generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs are the best hope for millions with HIV/AIDS in the developing world.

James Glassman asserted that using generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to treat HIV/AIDS in poor countries is in "shambles," (Commentary, Nov. 17).

Let me tell you of Joyce Cheelo and her cousin, Nawa Mutimba. Both live in Zambia, are 28, mothers, subsistence farmers and have HIV/AIDS. They are patients of the Salvation Army/AIDS Health-care Foundation (AHF) Muka Buumi (Mother of Life) clinic and have given me written permission to use their stories. After long, debilitating illness, they are alive and well today for one reason: they began a regimen of cheap, effective, generic ARVs in early October of this year.

Zambia is estimated to have close to 1 million cases of HIV/AIDS. But fewer than 10,000 get ARV treatment (ART). Because generic ARVs are one-third the price of brand-name medicines, three times as many patients can be kept alive by using generics. So Zambia has chosen to use generic drugs and Joyce and Nawa get to live.

It is ludicrous for Mr. Glassman and the Hudson Institute to claim generics aren't less expensive. The Hudson study is flawed and incomplete because it relies on a single ARV price list for one organization and does not compare prices of most fixed-dose combinations (FDCs). Generic FDCs combine two or three different ARV drugs. For example, the price of the most widely used ARVs, Triommune and Triviro ($253 per patient for year) should have been compared to brand prices for its components ($555 per patient yearly, according to the report). However, because there is not a branded FDC to compare with Triommune, as the components are manufactured by different brand companies, this ratio is excluded from the analysis.

Despite efforts by some of the branded drug companies, the World Trade Organization rules allow poor countries during health emergencies to import generic medicines. …

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