Is The Global Fund Heading Backwards On Access To Medicines?

Suerie Moon | | December 1, 2013

Suerie Moon from the Harvard School of Public Health warns against falling back on stale solutions for ensuring access to essential medicines. 

For nearly a decade, a bright spot on World AIDS Day has been steady growth in the number of people in developing countries accessing lifesaving HIV treatment, which increased 40-fold from 2002-2012. But this year, Board discussions at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have set off alarm bells about a potential retreat from the time-tested pro-generic policies that enabled such progress. At issue is a proposed “blue-ribbon Task Force” on tiered-pricing of medicines for middle-income countries (MICs), spearheaded by the Global Fund together with the GAVI Alliance, UNDP, UNICEF, UNITAID, and the World Bank.

“Tiered pricing” refers to pharmaceutical companies setting prices on (usually widely-patented) medicines at levels below those charged in high-income markets. At first glance, it sounds reasonable enough – lower prices for poorer countries. But, as summarized in a 2011 study, evidence from the past ten years shows that tiered pricing is in practice a feeble access strategy. First, it is demonstrably less reliable and effective than generic competition in achieving affordable prices for quality medicines. [...]