Tuesday, July 5, 2011

India's HIV Drugs Negotiations: Millions Will Die If New Restrictions Are Added

With prices of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) in the US skyrocketing without any end in sight, one of the most important tools to fighting HIV/AIDS globally is the Indian pharmaceutical industry. Due to less regulation and a canny understanding of the "free market," their crucial HIV drugs are sold at substantially lower costs than here in the US. This allows impoverished nations in third-world regions the ability to treat this deadly disease, and that in and of itself is a boon. So why would we tamper with the system?

You and I wouldn't, but the European Union's current trade negotiations with India might.

The new, ineptly named "free trade agreement" might include incredibly damaging restrictions, including patent protections and border enforcement rules that will hamstring the ability of the Indian pharmaceutical industry to produce generic versions of the ARVs available in the US. Keep in mind that this is wildly important: while my Truvada I take daily is around $30 a pill here, it's available for just pennies in equatorial Africa.

Michel Sidibe, the executive director for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS has lambasted the proposed restrictions as disastrous, stating in plain language that millions not only could, but will die if we restrict the ARV trade with India.

"'India should resist removing any flexibility because any trade agreement which could lead to India not being able to produce will be terrible for the rest of the world,' said Michel Sidibe, executive director for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

"'Millions of people will die if India cannot produce and Africa will be the most affected. For me, it is an issue of life or death,' he told Reuters in an interview, adding that about 86 percent of people on treatment were taking drugs made in India."

World leaders need to stop kowtowing to the demands of Big Pharm interests. These sorts of ridiculous policies reflect the actual concerns of pharmaceutical companies; instead of health and well-being for sick populations, the driving greed for profits is what fuels these entities.

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