Cheap AIDS Drugs, Now What?

Daryl Lindsey wrote a pretty even handed article on the recent decision by pharmaceutical companies to drop their patent challenge to cheap AIDS drugs in Africa. But as Lindsey notes, the entire fiasco was largely a public relations gimmick to affect drug pricing in the United States.

It’s buried in Lindsey’s article, but although the pharmaceutical companies’ actions were widely announced in the media, the next step wasn’t — South Africa, the main focal point of this issue, announced it had no intention of actually using anti-AIDS drugs. This should have come as no surprise as previously the South African government had refused companies who offered to donate millions of dollars worth of anti-AIDS drugs.

And, to be honest, it doesn’t really make any sense for African nations to attempt to duplicate healthcare treatment patterns of Western nations when it comes to AIDS. Even with the very cheap anti-virals, their health care systems lack the capacity to effectively distribute and administer an anti-AIDS drug regimen.

So what was the point? The real debate, as the Salon.Com article makes clear, is about price controls on drugs in the United States. The United States is the only developed country to my knowledge that doesn’t have widespread price controls on drug prices. Some Left wing groups want to change that as part of a plan that would essentially nationalize health care in the United States (akin to what Canada or Great Britain have).


Amy and Goliath. Daryl Lindsey, Salon.Com, May 1, 2001.

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