Originally published on Advocate.com March 31 2004 12:00 AM ET
U.S. senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Friday sent a letter to President Bush urging him to allow U.S. international AIDS funds to be spent on generic anti-HIV medications that cost a fraction of their brand-name counterparts. Bush currently supports studying whether generic anti-HIV drugs are safe and effective for use in developing countries and using the more expensive brand-name treatments until the studies are complete. But Kennedy and McCain urge the immediate use of the cheaper drugs so that HIV treatment programs can reach as many people as possible. They also say the studies Bush has requested are unnecessary, given that the World Health Organization has already found the medications to be safe and effective and has "pre-qualified" them for use in international AIDS treatment initiatives.
"We are very concerned that this historic opportunity could be lost if we fail to take action to provide safe, effective, and affordable medications to the greatest number of people," the senators wrote. "The tremendous possibilities within our grasp of providing antiretroviral drugs to those in need necessitates the use of the most economical and effective drugs, and therefore, safe generic medicines must be part of any effort to aid those in the developing world. We are very concerned over actions taken by your administration to prohibit recipients of federal funds from purchasing generic medications--medications which would allow for treatment to the largest number of people and, in turn, help to save the greatest number of lives. We strongly urge you to reconsider this policy."
There has been no response from the White House to the letter.