HIV Snake Oil

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The lead article in The Business newspaper (January 30/31, 2005) outlined how drugs that were found to be ineffective or downright dangerous were knowingly used to treat HIV sufferers including late pregnancy mothers just prior to delivery and their newborn children.

Nevirapine or Viramune (R) as it is known commercially, is produced by Boehringer Ingelheim was found that cases of liver damage were more commion with neviraprine, especially in women, than with other anti-HIV drugs – key research trial report published in The Lancet supporting the use of neviraprine may have under-reported severe adverse events among the trial subjects, including at least 14 deaths – a damning paper trail was found to show that NIH chiefs downplayed reporting the problems, fearing the potential impact on the drive to extend the use of nevirapine. In particular Fauci and Dr Edmund Tramont, head of the Division of AIDS were concerned not to jeopardise a 500m USD mother and child HIV initiative for Africa, announced a few weeks later by President Bush, specifically to support the nevirapine roll-out.

AZT, sold commercially as Retrovir(R) or Retrovis(R) developed by GlaxoSmithKline the first AIDS wonder drug had similar performance issues, UK and French government researchers found that more patients died who were given AZT early, compared to a control group who received it later on. AZT survived, being given to patients in much smaller doses as part of a pharmaceutical treatment cocktail.

Is this all the big pharmaceutical companies fault? No part of the responsibility must fall to the regulatory bodies that protect citizens in the developed world yet repeatedly fall down on the job; more than half the medications approved by the US Federal Drugs Administration were found to be risky enough to cause hospitalisation, severe disability of a permanent basis or even death. Its got worse, George Bush set out to block cases against pharmaceutical companies involving FDA-approved drugs as a matter of government policy. Given that America is a democracy, US citizens have the level of protection they deserve. What chance do developing countries have? AIDS eats away at their working population, they are up to their necks in foreign debt, poverty and other social ills. In addition they are lent on by numerous extra government bodies such as the IMF to implement policies or else?