Some of the US$15 billion announced by US President George W. Bush to save the lives of people with AIDS in poor countries could be spent on cheap copycat generic medicines that the giant US-based drug companies brand as "pirates," his advisers said yesterday.
In an extraordinary departure from the close relationship the US administration has always enjoyed with the major pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and Anthony Fauci, the AIDS scientist who advises the president, said that the money would be spent on the cheapest good-quality drugs.
"We certainly want to get the highest quality at the lowest price," said Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US.
"It may mean the [major] companies bringing their price low enough to be part of the program. It does not exclude generic drugs," he said.
He said that under the WTO's agreement on patents, poor countries are permitted to buy generics "where a country is in a state of emergency and they are incapable of making the drugs themselves." The US had made it clear in the past year, he went on, that it would not challenge any country which ignored a patent on a drug it needed to cope with "a genuine emergency," such as AIDS.
The US has been accused of siding with the big drug companies and blocking a formal agreement that would allow developing countries greater freedom to buy generics for other conditions that threaten the health of their people. The pharmaceutical companies say that their rivals in countries such as India and Thailand are pirating their inventions, which cost millions of dollars to develop.
Fauci pointed to Uganda, the blueprint for the emergency AIDS plan, which has reduced infection levels by openness about AIDS, strong education and prevention programs and heavily promoting the use of condoms. It has moved on to treating people with the antiretroviral drugs used in affluent countries to keep people alive and well. "In Uganda the program already going uses generic drugs," Fauci said. "That's possible. Other countries have negotiated deals with [major] drug companies to get prices down as low as generic prices."
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian last February, Jean Pierre Garnier, chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, said that he would beat any generic company on price if he were given a big enough order. If the Bush plan will seek drugs at the lowest price, it is likely to persuade the big companies to drop theirs further.
Thompson said he had spent some time with Bush after he returned from Africa last week.
"He was very positive about what he saw in Africa," he said. "He is more committed than ever to fight this fight. He told me, `Make sure you let people know that we are committed to the long haul and we need money to fight that fight,'" Thompson said.
Thompson is also chairman of the UN's Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which gives grants to treatment projects -- so far in 93 countries -- it judges to be high quality. Bush authorized US$1 billion of his US$15 billion to go to the fund from next year, but Congress is currently arguing that the first year's tranche of money should be no more than US$2 billion, with just US$400 million of that to the fund.
Thompson said the US is by far the biggest donor and he hopes EU countries will put in more money.
In December, he plans to take a group of businessmen to Africa in the hope that they will feel as he did when the president sent him to find out how serious the AIDS crisis was two years ago. "I've learned so much," he said. "I'm hoping the things that move me so dramatically will move business people too," he said.
Yesterday, the World Health Organization called for free tuberculosis drugs to cut the death toll of those who succumb because they have HIV and their immune systems cannot fight off the infection.
"The TB epidemic has grown even worse, primarily due to the spread of HIV. We need to increase our efforts to address the deadly synergy between the two diseases, each of which is fuelling the other's impact," said Mario Raviglione, of WHO's Stop TB department.
‘SERIOUS QUESTIONS’: Three US senators sent a letter to the US commerce secretary asking whether the project ‘takes into consideration national security requirements’ US Senator Chuck Schumer and two other Democratic colleagues have written to top US administration officials asking for details of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd’s (TSMC) plan to build a US$12 billion fab in Arizona. Hsinchu-based TSMC on Thursday last week announced that it would build a plant to make 5 nanometer chips by 2024 that would have the capacity to produce 20,000 semiconductor wafers per month. The world’s biggest contract chipmaker already has one chipmaking fab in Camas, Washington, and design centers in Austin, Texas, and San Jose, California. It said it planned to start construction in Arizona next year and
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
MOM’S LONG CAMPAIGN: Mao Yin had been brought up in Mianyang, Sichuan Province, without any idea that he was the target of a decades-long, high-profile search A Chinese man who was stolen from his family as a toddler has been reunited with his parents after 32 years. Mao Yin (毛寅), then two-and-a-half years old, was snatched in 1988 when he was walking home from nursery with his father. His parents finally embraced him again on Monday in Xian, where he was born. After Mao vanished, his mother Li Jingzhi (李靜芝) quit her job and launched a decades-long search for her son, that included sending out more than 100,000 flyers and appearing on numerous TV shows. That long campaign helped 29 other families find their own missing children and made
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for