|Selected news articles which highlight important policy issues.||
News: Weekly Archives
News for the week of 07-01-2005
Malaria money no good ‘if US funds agency not overhauled’
President Bush has pledged $1.2 billion for fighting malaria in a range of countries. We should cautiously welcome this largesse, particularly as he has said the money will be used to finance insecticide treatments, bed nets, and the drug artemisinin. However, as Africa Fighting Malaria has argued, the money would not go far unless the leading US government development agency, USAID, is overhauled:
“USAID needs to start spending money on interventions that actually save lives — such as insecticides, bed nets, and medicines — rather than nebulous items such as ‘capacity building’ and ‘technology transfer,’” said Africa Fighting Malaria director Richard Tren.
The “vast majority” of USAID’s malaria program budget went to consultants, Tren went on to say. While the G8 nations are rightly focusing on governance reforms in African nations, they should spend the same energy on ensuring more accountability for donor institutions like USAID.
In Malaysia, a battle erupts in AIDS fight
The Tribune reports on how differing cultural values can lead to problems in trying to contain HIV/AIDS. In Malaysia, Islamic groups are opposed to the distribution of condoms and needles as part of a government attempt to come to grips with the country’s AIDS problems, because they feel this will encourage immoral behavior.
“‘When you give free condoms and free needles, you give drug abusers the motivation to engage in risky behavior,’ said Mahfoz Omar, a leader of the Islamic Party of Malaysia, an opposition political party.
The Malaysian government should stick to its guns. Prevention strategies have paid wonderful dividends in Uganda and Senegal, even though these countries had numerous cultural hurdles to overcome.
Brazil aims for cheaper AIDS drugs
There is a lot of coverage this week about the Brazilian government’s decision to take the first steps towards breaking the patents of several anti-retroviral (ARV) AIDS drugs owned by US companies, in order to license cheaper local production and thereby save costs.
Many activists and NGOs welcomed the move, hoping that it will mean cheaper medicines:
"The impact of breaking the patent would be enormous," said Michael Bailey, a senior policy adviser for Oxfam International. "If a major country such as Brazil goes through with this, not only will it help ensure sustainability of their excellent treatment program, it will set a hugely important precedent for other countries."
Others are more skeptical:
"This is about stealing our intellectual property right and left and we're going to have to do something about it," said Robert Goldberg, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a New York-based conservative think tank. "If these were Microsoft's patents, there would be a firestorm."
Brazil’s rhetoric aside, this may simply be a case of the Brazilian government using industrial policy to build up its local pharmaceutical industry, using the concern for AIDS sufferers as a cover story.
At any rate, we can be certain that moves like this make private investment in AIDS research increasingly less attractive for private companies. In 1999 there were 125 drugs and vaccines in the R&D pipeline; today there are only 85. As resistance to current ARVs increases, future AIDS sufferers will pay dearly for Brazil’s nearsighted politicking.
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