This week, the US Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, gave its approval to generic AIDS medicines manufactured by a South African company, Aspen Pharmacare.
It means PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, can now buy the cheaper generic versions of AIDS drugs. Many AIDS activists had accused the Bush Administration of favoring big pharmaceutical companies and their more expensive patented drugs. Ambassador Randall Tobias, the US Global AIDS Coordinator, says the FDA decision proves that PEPFAR’s goal is to seek cheap, but effective medications.
One of the organizations that benefits directly from the FDA decision is the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Vice-President Mark Isaac spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the significance of the decision.
He says, “It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of this announcement. For large numbers of people in Africa and beyond, this could be a true turning point, providing low-cost, safe and effective drugs to those who would otherwise face certain death.” The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation provides AIDS drugs in four Africa countries. This regimen is one of the most significant regimens that we are providing in the field right now. So, it has an immediate impact on our ability to serve many more people.“
He adds, “If the drug is provided at the same cost that other, similar regimens are being provided, then we estimate we would be able to increase the number of people served by two or three times over what we’re now serving.”
The Foundation estimates it’s currently serving 9500 people in Ivory Coast, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia, about 1,000 of them children. With no cure and no vaccine for HIV/AIDS, Mr. Isaac says the availability of cheaper medicines is vital. “This is the entire game plan if you will, right now. This is absolutely essential. Literally, we’ve heard stories of people, who have been lying on their deathbeds – and we initiated the program during the past year – and to the amazement of friends and family these individuals got up off of their death beds and walked home.”