Practice English everyday with VOA Special English

Sunday, September 23, 2012 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English

More Low-Cost AIDS Drugs Mean More People Treated

An American program called the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief helps millions of people infected with HIV. PEPFAR is considered one of the most successful programs created during the presidency of George W. Bush. Its goal was to change HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a disease that could be treated. And for millions of people around the world, that is just what happened.

But researchers say it was not until PEPFAR started using generic drugs that major progress was made in fighting HIV/AIDS. Generic drugs are copies of medicines developed by large drug companies. They often cost a lot less. Researchers from Brown University in Rhode Island studied the effectiveness of PEPFAR.

Kartik Venkatesh was the lead author of a report about it. He says the high cost of patented antiretroviral drugs influenced the program after it began. American officials considered whether to provide patented drugs to HIV-infected patients, both in the United States and overseas.

Dr. Venkatesh says some people believe that the drug industry wanted the government-financed program to use patented drugs. But generic drugs were shown to be effective in treating HIV as long ago as 2003. Using generic drugs helped cut the cost of treating a person from about $1,100 a year to about $300 a year in 2005.

PEPFAR has also been able to save millions of dollars by reducing transportation costs. For example, the program uses ships instead of airplanes to move the drugs. Dr. Venkatesh says the PEPFAR model could be used to fight other diseases in developing countries. It could help the developing world deal with health problems that until recently had only been seen in richer countries.

Dr. Venkatesh says more and more people are understanding that chronic diseases could represent much larger health care costs in the future. Problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer will require long-term medication. He says a lot can be learned from the experience with PEPFAR and the use of generic drugs to treat HIV.

The Brown University researchers have proposed creating a plan for what they call the "efficient and transparent" purchase of generic drugs. Planners would include the United States, the World Health Organization and generic drug manufacturers.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 29Aug2012)