Ensuring access to generic antiretroviral medicines in low- and middle-income countries

The recent scale-up of the number of people living with HIV accessing antiretroviral therapy can be linked to the increased availability of generic antiretroviral medicines.

Given that people living with HIV will need life-long access to such medicines, there is a need to scale up the research and development, production and distribution of generic antiretroviral medicines that are both effective and affordable.

A new journal supplement explores the production of antiretroviral medicines in resource-limited countries and their delivery to people living with HIV and how production and delivery can be made more effective and efficient. The publication also explores the lessons for the production and delivery of a broader set of drugs in low- and middle-income countries. Consisting of a compilation of 13 articles, Ensuring access to generic antiretroviral drugs in low- and middle-income countries is the result of a collaboration between UNAIDS and the journal Antiviral Therapy.

The task of ensuring that medicines and other health technologies are reliably and sustainably manufactured and are available to people in resource-limited countries is complex. According to the articles, the global community needs to focus on three key pillars that will help to ensure access to medicines: political vision and commitment; partnerships; and sharing of knowledge and technologies.

“The political commitment and partnerships exist and we have the tools and science to advance this agenda,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “To meet this challenge, all partners must come together to cultivate a strong vision, backed up by an actionable plan, political leadership and sufficient and sustainable resources,” he added.

The authors of the supplement recognize that manufacturing and distributing medicines occurs within regulated free-market economic systems and that there is a need to deal with increasingly multifaceted patent issues, which affect price but ensure quality.

The authors conclude that as life expectancy grows, as countries develop and as the health needs of populations worldwide increase, the global community needs to ensure access to medicines for all. The AIDS response has often been at the forefront of the development agenda, and again must lead the way.

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