World AIDS Day: The quest for cheap and efficient antiretrovirals continues

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At first sight, it might not seem like this article had anything to do with HIV/AIDS – but it does. One of the major obstacles to controlling the pandemic in Third World countries has been a lack of access to antiretrovirals. So any action taken against pharmaceutical companies could have an impact on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. So I thought I’d use this opportunity to post this article from IHT about the European governments taking action against pharmaceutical companies because it just makes me happy.

EU accuses drug companies of gouging consumers

By James Kanter

Published: November 28, 2008

BRUSSELS: The European Union accused pharmaceutical companies Friday of raising costs for patients by billions of euros by delaying or blocking entry into the market for less-expensive generic medicines.

The EU competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, presented preliminary findings from a broad investigation into allegations of anti-competitive practices in the sector.

She said common tactics used by pharmaceutical companies to stifle generics included amassing large clusters of patents to protect active ingredients in medicines – in one case, 1,300 patents for a single drug. Another method used, Kroes said, was for drug makers to sue the makers of generic drugs for ostensible patent violations, tending to delay the availability of the lower-cost drugs for years.

She also turned her sights on the generics companies, which she said had received $200 million from pharmaceutical companies over seven years in exchange for holding their products off of the market.

Kroes said patients and health care systems in Europe would have saved at least €3 billion, or $3.8 billion, from 2000 to 2007 – or shaved 5 percent off the cost of medical bills – if companies had let generics into the market sooner.

Read the rest of this article here.

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