Fake ARVs: two steps back?

So Asia is awash with fake pills. No news there. Cops are seizing a fair few of them — 16 million in the last few months, worth US$ 6.6 million, according to Interpol. That’s a step forward. But that some of them seem to be antiretroviral drugs for HIV threatens two steps back.

The first step backwards is of course that counterfeit drugs usually don’t work very well. But people who take them presume, at least until they get hopelessly sick, that they are working. They believe their viral loads are falling, and they believe that they are getting less infectious. We already know that people get sloppier about using condoms it they think they are not infectious (or, if they are uninfected, that any HIV-infected partners will be on meds and not infectious). So it’s not encouraging to think that those may be the very people whose viral load is bouncing skywards because they are on ineffective medication. Oh, and that resistance is almost inevitably going to rise because people will be on and off “real” medication depending on the supply.

The second step backwards is that this kind of thing gives the self-appointed guardians of Big Pharma’s bottom line a new cudgel with which to bash generics and compulsory licensing. And sure enough, there they are today, wielding the cudgel on the op-ed pages of The New York Times. (Note the source of Roger Bate’s funding…) Conflating generics with counterfeit drugs is like conflating sex work with trafficking. One provides services people want at a price they agree to pay, the other is illegal and dangerous. But waging war on the first is almost certainly going to make it harder to wipe out the second.

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This post was published on 17/11/08 in Money and AIDS.

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  1. Comment by Roger, 17/11/08, 09:09:

    Roger Bate’s position and affiliation are very well known. I once wrote a rather vitriolic article about him that was rejected for publication though all what I wrote was properly referenced…

  2. Comment by Roger, 17/11/08, 09:17:

    I had to read the NYT article and could not but just burst laughing when reading the following:

    “Many poor countries lack the regulatory structure needed to monitor safety and effectiveness. Some do not even have laws against selling substandard drugs, and none have sophisticated agencies like the F.D.A. with the trained inspectors and laboratories needed to analyze pharmaceuticals.”

    I am currently trying to import some investigative product from the US into the UK and I am running into so many problems because of the sloppy way the US manusfactures his medicinal products compare to the UK…

  3. Pingback by peripheries » Blog Archive » The Lobbyist versus the people, 17/11/08, 11:05:

    […] minor edits were made on 17/11/08. I decided to republish it after my attention was drawn by the Wisdom of Whore to a recent opinion piece written by Roger Bates for the New York Times. In his latest article for […]

  4. Comment by Daniel Reeders, 19/11/08, 03:52:

    I think you’re dead right – this issue is being beaten up to cast doubt on the safety and efficacy of generic medications produced under compulsory license. Interestingly another major seizure of drugs occurred in either Belgium or Holland (it’s been a while and they all sound the same to me) was a shipment of drugs produced for a compassionate access program with the appropriate trade dress that had been ordered on the invitation of the patentholder by a developed world distributor, whereupon they were seized and charges were brought for diversion, only to be dropped later when the true story emerged (but the damage had been done).

  5. Pingback by peripheries » Blog Archive » Access to life-saving medicines in Thailand: The US bullies are back, 07/03/09, 10:25:

    […] deceptive approach to CL that consists in conflating generics with counterfeit drugs. As noted elsewhere, it “is like conflating sex work with trafficking. One provides services people want at a price […]

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