Americans support breaking drug patents to ensure access to HIV/AIDS drugs

July 30, 2007

ROCHESTER — In May 2007, Brazil�s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took steps to make an inexpensive generic version of a patented AIDS drug manufactured by Merck & Co. by issuing a compulsory license that would bypass Merck�s patent. A compulsory license is a legal mechanism that allows a country to manufacture or buy generic versions of patented drugs while paying the patent holder only a small royalty.

According to a recent online survey conducted by Harris Interactive for The Wall Street Journal Online�s Health Industry Edition, most adults in the U.S. (57 percent) say they are in favor of the country's decision, while 20 percent say they are opposed.

Overall, 61 percent of U.S. adults believe poorer countries should be allowed to break companies' patents on HIV/AIDS drugs if doing so would help them treat more of their population. Thirty-three percent say they believe that ignoring companies' patents on HIV/AIDS drugs hinders the development of new drugs, while 40 percent say they disagree with this statement.

Compared to five years ago, fewer U.S. adults feel that the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is worsening. Forty percent think the global HIV/AIDS epidemic has worsened in the last five years, down from 58 percent in 2004 who said the same. Sixteen percent say they feel the global HIV/AIDS epidemic has gotten better, while 32 percent say things have stayed about the same.

Ultimately, the public strongly believes that prevention programs that teach about and distribute condoms are the most effective means of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. By comparison, the public is more ambivalent about the efficacy of abstinence programs. Seventy six percent agree that programs that teach about and distribute condoms will be most effective in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, while half (51 percent) say they agree that the best way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS is through programs that teach abstinence.

"Although U.S. adults seem to be less concerned that the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is worsening, they continue to support spending on prevention and treatment of the disease and on caring for children who have been orphaned by AIDS," Katherine Binns, division president for Healthcare Research at Harris Interactive, said in a release. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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