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HIV Markets In Rich, Poor Countries Are Two Distinct Markets

HIV drugs have not only “transformed a fatal disease into a chronic one,” but “[t]hey have also made HIV a big business,” this Economist editorial states. The editorial examines the market for HIV drugs, writing, “The market is as unusual as it is large, both buoyed by government support and worryingly dependent on it. The past decade has brought fancier medicine in rich countries and copious aid for poor ones. But the war is far from won.” The editorial writes, “In total, public and private investment has yielded more than two dozen HIV drugs,” adding, “Sales of antiretroviral drugs in America and the five biggest European markets reached $13.3 billion in 2011, according to Datamonitor, a research outfit.”

The editorial recounts a brief history of HIV drug development, noting, “The rise of combination therapy has brought a flurry of cross-licensing: companies strike deals to sell each other’s drugs in carefully calibrated cocktails.” It continues, “If the process for developing HIV drugs has been unusual, selling them has been even more so,” and discusses the sale and distribution of HIV drugs in both rich and poor countries. The editorial highlights a drop in the cost of HIV drugs over time and writes, “Despite the subsidies and the plunge in prices, less than half of those infected with HIV take HIV drugs.” It concludes, “There are two distinct HIV markets. In rich countries, many good treatments jostle for market share. … In poor countries, by contrast, Big Pharma makes very little money but the most efficient copycats thrive. Meanwhile, the world still waits for a cure” (6/2).

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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.