25/06/2001
Press Briefing



PRESS BRIEFING ON ACCESS OF POOR COUNTRIES TO HIV/AIDS TREATMENTS


The leading international research-based pharmaceutical companies support strengthening the ability of the poorest countries to access health care prevention strategies and treatment, according to a statement distributed by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers at a Headquarters press briefing this afternoon related to the General Assembly’s special session on HIV/AIDS.


Those companies remained committed to continuing their productive partnerships, including philanthropic activity, in the search for solutions to the access challenge, the statement said.


At the press briefing were Dr. Rolf Krebs, Chairman of the Board of Managing Directors of Boehringer Ingelheim of Germany, and Dr. Harvey Bale of the Geneva-based International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations, which represents 60 national bodies.


The proposed "global fund" -- combining primarily public funds with voluntary private sector contributions -- could make a substantial positive contribution to the global fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the statement said.


Strict criteria for the use of funds would have to be put in place along with measures to ensure accountability.  Conditions for success in the establishment and use of the fund would have to include strong political commitment by governments to the strategy; funding additional existing funds available for health care and development and involvement of all sectors of the countries seeking assistance, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  The organization also underlined the encouragement of research and development and respect for intellectual property. 


It said the use of funds should be allocated according to national priorities and programmes overseen and based upon best practices.  The industry's major contribution remained its research and development efforts, and programmes to expand access to treatments, including in-kind contributions.


Responding to questions, Dr. Bale said pharmaceutical companies had over the past year offered lower prices for their products as part of a partnership with Governments.  "But the partnership has to be a partnership where Governments are doing their part".  He added that Governments, up until recently, had not been playing their partnership role.  There had been more attention on pharmaceutical prices and more emphasis on getting access to pharmaceutical products he said, and added:  "I have to say it is a large public failure.  I think it is being corrected now".  He said there was no price at which many millions of people could get access to drugs, because the costs were very high.


He said he thought the problem was, hopefully, now being addressed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan's call for a global fund.  He hoped the public sector would respond.


Dr. Bale also told a questioner that the key contribution the pharmaceutical companies would continue to make was in the area of research and development. 


They were spending annually more than $50 billion in research, and developing new pharmaceutical products, including vaccines.  There were more than 100 HIV/AIDS products in the research pipeline, including vaccines.  The critical issue was the provision of intellectual property protection for their new inventions.  It was absolutely essential, he said, adding that without that there would not be the development of the kind of product that was hoped for over the next five or ten years.  


Dr. Krebs said AIDS was spreading, and there was not much time.  The pharmaceutical industry had to come up with better, effective vaccines.  It was not scientifically an easy task.  There was no cure for the disease, only its stabilization.  The industry had to come up with a cure as soon as possible, he said.


From their perspective, he said, the ongoing debate concerning prevention and treatment was not a realistic one.  There were more than 30 million infected people who could not be ignored.  He also welcomed the proposed global fund, and stressed that education of patients was also important, as well as the establishment of medical infrastructures. 


The pharmaceutical industry was committed to producing drugs at low prices, he said. A lot of activity was going on in laboratories for the production of drugs not only for AIDS, but other infectious diseases as well, he stated.


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