In June 2013, the Obama administration proudly proclaimed that the number of people with HIV/AIDS on treatment supported by President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) had risen to six million.
However, the US’ latest trade enforcement action against India announced this week is certain to slow treatment scale up and will likely derail the President’s highly touted goal of an ‘AIDS Free Generation.’
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The long-running trade dispute between the US and India over intellectual property (IP) rights could leave millions of people without access to life-saving medications and cripple programs like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the respected global AIDS treatment program.
“Despite TRIPS, US trade officials are once again ratcheting up pressure on India for what they view as patent infringement against Big Pharma”
On Tuesday, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) released yet another salvo in retaliation for India’s alleged IP transgressions, this time in the renewable energy sector, by filing a case with the World Trade Organization (WTO). Last year, USTR placed India on a trade watch list for flouting Big Pharma drug patents.
Advocates from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) decried the move, noting that Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers supply much of the developing world with affordable medicines for diseases such as HIV and cancer by producing generic versions of patented drugs at a fraction of the cost of brand name drugs.
Under the WTO TRIPS agreement, countries have the discretion to disregard patent protections for drug formulations in cases of public health emergencies, such as the H1N1 bird flu pandemic in 2009 and the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“Despite TRIPS, US trade officials are once again ratcheting up pressure on India for what they view as patent infringement against Big Pharma,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Ironically, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, often rightfully touted as one of the most successful US foreign aid programs, purchases more than eighty percent of its antiretroviral drugs from generic manufacturers, a move that saves taxpayers billions of dollars. Yet the Obama administration is now advocating a policy that will make these lifesaving drugs unavailable to those most in need. This is a betrayal of what most see as the most basic values and principles of our country.”
Whether diametrically opposed positions on foreign aid and foreign trade are a symptom of hypocrisy or mismanagement remains to be seen, but in either case it’s clear Big Pharma is pressuring the policy makers in order to increase their profits at the expense of human life, from those who simply cannot afford drugs like Gilead’s new $1,000-per-pill anti-Hepatitis drug.
Until now India has remained steadfast in the face of US threats to impose trade sanctions, which means most of the world’s 12 million people on generic antiretroviral medication for HIV/AIDS will stay alive, for now, but eventually the price they pay may become intolerable.
“Whenever a natural disaster strikes around the world, the US government is often the first to offer assistance and humanitarian aid, but when Big Pharma’s commercial interests stand in the way of millions of people affected by one of the greatest human tragedies of our time getting affordable lifesaving antiretroviral medicine, the US government is content to simply step aside,” said Dr. Jorge Saavedra, Global Ambassador for AIDS Healthcare Foundation and a former Global Fund Board Member. “For the past year-and-a-half, President Obama has touted his goal of an ‘AIDS Free Generation’ and has also pledged the largest contributions to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Looks like a paradox, on one side both PEPFAR and the Global Fund rely on affordable generics produced in India, and at the same time, another branch of the US Government administration continues to impose and expand strict trade enforcement sanctions against that same country, which most of the developing world depends on to obtain lifesaving medications in order to try to stop the global HIV epidemic.”
PEPFAR is the successful US global AIDS program that President George W. Bush first proposed in his 2003 State of the Union address. At a celebration honoring the 10th anniversary of PEPFAR in June 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the number of people on treatment supported by PEPFAR had risen to six million, and that globally, one million babies had been born HIV-free thanks to PEPFAR-supported efforts.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 282,000 individuals in 32 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation