• Will Africans steal Truvada?

    For the past 15 years, a consistent industry argument against low priced generic AIDS drugs in the developing world has been the fear of arbitrage – poor people selling their drugs, undercutting drug company profits.  Great soundbite; zero empirical evidence that it ever happens. Nice economic theory, but we still have no evidence of any commercial scale diversion of AIDS drugs from developing countries to rich countries. Zero.  (Background:  Pharmaceutical Arbitrage)*

    And yet, this question is being raised again, this time with the newly approved Truvada preventative treatment for HIV.

    Meanwhile, back in the US, a single ring in NYC has allegedly diverted over $100 million in such drugs over the past few years. The WSJ reports on the indictments. US drug prices are so high that they approach cocaine on a per ounce basis. No wonder this entirely domestic trade exists. But that is not an argument for denying low priced drugs to desperately poor people who depend on these drugs for daily life.


    *If your response in the comments is to mention the Dowelhurst diversion reported a decade ago (Guardian story here), note that the drugs were diverted in Europe, not Africa.  Additional details in Health Affairs 2008 (at n.49-51).

    • I spend a lot of time in developing countries working in the health sector. I have never seen or heard of any diversion of drugs to developed countries… even expensive AIDS drugs.

    • Developing countries (especially poor African ones) rarely get the help they need. So how come their getting the inexpensive aids drugs now? And who developed such a cure?

    • The Global Fund and many bilateral aid agencies such as USAID provide drugs to treat AIDS. Some of these funds are used to purchase less expensive generics (primarily manufactured in India). However, the US tends to purchase more expensive branded drugs (we must keep shoveling our taxpayer money to the drug companies).
      Most of the basic research for AIDS drugs is funded by taxpayer money through the NIH, etc. Drug companies generally do the work necessary to get FDA approval and they reap all of the benefits.