Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies for their commitments to expand access to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention after meeting with their top executives at United Nations Headquarters today.<
“I am pleased that the companies I met with today pledged to continue their efforts, in line with international commitments towards the goal of being as close as possible to universal access by 2010,” Mr. Annan said following the meeting with executives of nine companies and the heads of a number of UN agencies, the first time manufacturers of generic drugs attended such a meeting.
Despite the significant advances in the five years since he first met with pharmaceutical company executives, Mr. Annan said the AIDS epidemic is “still outpacing our efforts and we need to work together in a broad partnership to step up the response.”
In that light, he said that the companies have committed individually to continue to review their product offerings and the prices of their existing and new HIV medications and diagnostics, especially for children, to make them more affordable, accessible and appropriate for use in low- and middle-income countries.
They have also agreed to register their HIV medications and diagnostics as widely as possible, increase investment in research, and give greater priority to the development of paediatric formulations of HIV medications and specific diagnostic tools for children.
While affirming the importance of intellectual property rights, they said they would continue to develop arrangements with third-party manufacturers for licences and technology transfers to make HIV medications and diagnostics more affordable and accessible.
Mr. Annan said participants also agreed on the role of the UN system in a number of areas, including work on the removal of import duties on HIV medications and diagnostics, and the development of guidelines on diagnosis, treatment, product quality and forecasting of needs
In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) committed themselves to step up efforts to expand the pre-qualification programme of urgently needed medicines and diagnostics.
“These commitments are all of vital importance,” Mr. Annan said. “But given the scale of the challenge, they are not sufficient in themselves,” he said in describing other efforts that will be made by participants to identify further measures needed.
From the UN system, the participants included: Kemal Dervis, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP); Ann Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF; Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); and Anders Nordström, acting Director-General of WHO.
Participating pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies included Aspen Pharmacare,
Aurobindo Pharma, Becton Dickinson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Hetero Drugs, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Company and Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited.