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Bill Introduced In U.S. Senate Is Latest Push To Award Prizes For New Drug Development

“As Washington prepares for a major international AIDS conference this summer, developments on the drug front are once again elevating the subject of the continuing epidemic in the public eye,” CQ HealthBeat reports. The article mentions an FDA panel’s recent recommendation for the approval of Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus and a bill (S 1138) introduced last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) aimed at reducing the cost of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). The bill, which is focused on the cost of ARVs in the U.S., would “create a $3 billion ‘prize fund,’ through which [pharmaceutical] firms that bring a new HIV or AIDS medicine to market would get awards” in exchange for relinquishing patent rights to the drug, according to CQ (Norman, 5/18).

Sanders “acknowledged that the legislation isn’t going anywhere anytime soon — he is its sole sponsor — [but] the idea of prizes to speed new medicines to market is gaining momentum,” according to the Washington Post. The newspaper notes several experts who have testified in favor of the bill and reports that “an advisory committee to the World Health Organization [last month] broadly endorsed prizes for drug development.” However, “even some AIDS activists say Sanders’s bill … is flawed,” according to the Washington Post, which quotes a representative of the Treatment Action Group and pharmaceutical industry officials (Vastag, 5/19).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.