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Is Pharma Making the Grade?


The AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition (ATAC), of which I'm a member, issued report cards on the nine major pharmaceutical companies with HIV drugs on the market, and most aren't exactly graduating with honors (the average grade was C-minus).

ATAC graded each company on drug development, pricing, access to medications (often through things like drug co-pay programs), marketing, and whether the companies give the community the opportunity to influence how they run their clinical trials.  Each company was also given an aggregate grade.

We praised companies like Merck and Tibotec for the way they do business, giving both the highest grade handed out (a B, although I actually thought Merck deserved an A-minus), while taking Roche and Abbott to task for various poor policies (Abbott got a much deserved F for its Norvir pricing fiasco).

The New York Times ran a great story in its business section last week covering the report card release.

What will hopefully come through loud and clear is that while we're very grateful for the life-saving meds that pharma has produced, and we acknowledge that progress in HIV has been stellar compared to many other diseases, we're far from done.

The drugs were never designed or priced to be taken life-long, and we need pharma to work closely with the community to ensure that progress toward something better than daily-treatment-for-life becomes a reality in the not-to-distant future.

Below is the summary report card.  More detailed reports can be found on ATAC's website.

ATAC pharma report card

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Comments on Peter Staley's blog entry "Is Pharma Making the Grade?"

Hello Peter

Thank you for including this important information in your blog. I don't know about other readers, but the report card .jpeg isn't opening for me. I'll try later from another computer. I look forward (sort of?) to reading the NYT piece and am glad to learn of the group's goal of getting pharmaceutical firms to structure realistic and fair ARV (and related meds?)pricing for lifetime or potentially lifetime consumers.


The pharmaceutical industry isn't motivated by altruism. Last April, Gilead Sciences - the maker of Atripla - proudly announced in a press release that its profit had climbed by 21 percent in the first Quarter of 2009 directly as a result of increased sales of Atripla and Truvada. Had I a few billion Euros/Dollars/etc lying around, I'd gladly offer to give it all as a prize to be awarded the first drug company to find a final cure for HIV. I doubt if any government would ever propose such an award, but there are enough truly wealthy people in the world who might be able to award what would be the ultimate Nobel prize. This suggestion isn't as goofy as it might seem. Alfred Nobel died in 1896, yet his name has become a the ultimate synonym for achievement. A "Gates" prize? A "Trump" prize?

Oh well, we can dream...

Peter - regarding the ATAC's grades on recruiting of minority and women. I used to work in clinical trial research on the investigative site side of things, and it was incredibly difficult to get people of color into our trials. There was no specific reason, but it included availability (site hours vs. participant working hours), comorbid diagnoses, translation issues (using a site translator costs >$100/hr, and over the course of 6-10 visits of 1-4 hrs each time, it's practically the cost of an extra study participant).

Also, no ethics board (IRB) would ever allow gender or race-specific recruitment strategies.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Staley published on September 14, 2009 12:21 PM.

Obama's First Step Toward a National HIV/AIDS Strategy was the previous entry in this blog.

The Jennings Line is the next entry in this blog.

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