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HIV and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa - Essay Example

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This paper "HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa" takes a look at how we can ethically justify and challenge the reluctance of the major transnational pharmaceutical corporations in playing an active role in the eradication of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa…
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HIV and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa
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Download file to see previous pages Apart from pricing there are factors which play their part in hampering the fight against HIV/AIDS. These are well noted by Calfee & Bate (2004): “...In a fundamental sense, much of the criticism of drug pricing and related matters in treating HIV/AIDS in poor nations is misplaced. A rapid drop in prices, accompanied by a near-abandonment of intellectual property and the widespread availability of inexpensive generic drugs, has revealed that stumbling blocks in progress against HIV/ AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are not drug prices or patents. Rather, the barriers are inadequate health care infrastructures, an inability to administer drug therapy when it is needed and to avoid inappropriate drug therapy, the threat and reality of drug-resistant HIV strains, resistance to reasonable HIV therapy by governments, and severe administrative bottlenecks that have nothing to do with drug pricing or availability.”
Until prevention and education programs are completely effective, A.R.V.'s are needed to save lives, and the transnational pharmaceutical corporations can provide them. The major American manufacturers of A.R.V.'s-Merck, Abbott, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer and Glaxo Smith Kline-have dedicated millions of dollars to the fight against HIV/AIDS in developing nations (Angell 2004). The assistance has taken various forms: donating A.R.V.'s, reducing their price to cost, investing in medical infrastructure and education programs and voluntarily waiving patent rights so that generic, less costly versions of their drugs can be sold.
In determining how transnational pharmaceutical firms should respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Reisel and Sama (2003,pp. 368-69) observed the following:
"The pharmaceutical industry is motivated by competitive and economic factors. From a competitive standpoint, research and development (R&D) intensive firms are continuously under pressure to differentiate their discoveries from that of competitor firms.... With profitability so closely linked to sales of patented drugs that are not challenged by generics or substitutes, the pharmaceutical industry uses its influence to delay patent expiration whenever possible."
The efforts are commendable but still one may ask whether these pharmaceutical companies (much less governments of wealthier nations) are doing enough to ensure access to A.R.V.'s. Most sub-Saharan African families simply cannot afford the drugs, even at discounted prices. Price reductions and other relief measures are inadequate when compared to the abnormal profit margins of drug companies. In 2001, for example, Abbott Laboratories posted $16.3 billion in sales and $2.9 billion in net earnings (Angell 2004). Those who defend the current pricing practices of drug companies argue that profits are needed for the research and development of new drugs (Grabowski, Vernon & Joseph 2002; DiMasi, Ronald & Henry 2003). They also remind critics that corporations are not charities: they exist primarily to make money ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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