Drug Companies Are Focusing on the Poor After Decades of Ignoring Them

Donal McNeil Jr. in The New York Times:

In 1998, with 250,000 of its citizens dying of AIDS each year, South Africa’s Parliament legalized the suspension of drug patents so the government could import generic drugs. Almost immediately, 39 drug companies sued to overturn the law, naming the country’s beloved president, Nelson Mandela, in their suit. Following international condemnation, the suit was dropped in 2001.

…Another turning point came in 2001, when Cipla, an Indian company, offered H.I.V. drugs to Doctors Without Borders for $350 per patient per year. The offer revealed the huge markups the brand-name drug makers had been profiting from, and introduced the Indian pharmaceutical industry as a rival. “Cipla was a driver for change,” said David Reddy, chief executive of the Medicines for Malaria Venture, one of many public-private partnerships created to guide industry research. The George W. Bush administration founded or supported the agencies that became the biggest buyers of generics: the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; the President’s Malaria Initiative; and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

More here.