NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Agenda for AIDS

March 31, 2003

New AIDS drugs must be swiftly developed and disseminated, says TechCentralStation host James K. Glassman. Unfortunately, the drug industry is constrained by regulations that often prevent effective remedies from reaching the public -- and it is under attack by people seeking to control prices and strip companies of their property rights.

  • AIDS cases in the United States have declined thanks to new drugs that slow the progression of HIV infection.
  • The first protease inhibitors were introduced in the mid-1990s, and as a result, the number of AIDS-related deaths dropped from 51,670 in 1995 to 15,603 in 2001.

However, the virus is rapidly mutating. A new study found that at least half of the HIV/AIDS infected people in the United States at the end of 2001 carry viruses that are already resistant to some existing drugs.

  • As a result, scientists estimate that nearly all AIDS patients currently treated with retrovirals will need new medications in the next five years.
  • There are 14 vaccines and 33 anti-viral drugs, many of which attack HIV in new ways, in clinical trials or awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration; but stripped of incentives, drug companies simply will not be able to develop them.
  • Of the 64 AIDS and AIDS-related drugs on the market today, 57 -- including all protease inhibitors -- were developed exclusively by private pharmaceutical companies.

According to the Tufts University Center for the Study of Drug Development, it takes, on average, 10 to 15 years for an experimental drug to move to laboratory to market. On average, it costs a company $802 million to get a single drug from lab to patients.

Nearly all drugs are developed in the United States, Switzerland and Britain -- where there is the least government intervention and the most respect for property rights.

Source: James K. Glassman, "A Different High-Tech War," March 28, 2003,

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