About The Treatment Timebomb

The APPG Inquiry into long-term access to HIV treatment in the developing world

The Inquiry Process

The inquiry had three stages. Firstly, in February 2009 the APPG sent out a call for evidence to all of its contacts - it received written responses from pharmaceutical companies, NGOs and international foundations, such as the Clinton AIDS Initiative. Secondly, the APPG convened a high-level round table in parliament for senior charity HIV experts and pharmaceutical company officials, MPs and Peers. A note on the meeting can be accessed here. Finally, a cross-party group of MPs and Peers visited Geneva to talk to the WHO, UNAIDS, the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and malaria, and other relevant organisations. More information about the visit.

Download the report.

The Final Report

The Treatment Timebomb, describes how by 2030 over 50 million people will need HIV treatment compared to just 9 million who need it today.

Millions of those needing treatment in future will need more expensive medicines, having become resistant to the basic HIV combination therapy. These ‘second-line’ treatments currently cost at least seven times more. When the basic treatment stops working, getting them is a matter of life or death.

Some people will also need to switch from the basic combination to newer less-toxic drugs because they experience serious side effects.

The combination of more people needing more complex treatment is, says the report, a timebomb that needs to be addressed now, to avoid crisis later.

Governments around the world, including the UK, have signed up to the goal of ‘Universal Access to HIV treatment, prevention, care and support’ by 2010. The world is not on track to meet this target with only a third of the nine million people who need it having access to HIV treatment. This is despite the fact that for now, most people are on the cheap therapy.

The report argues that cutting the price of medicines is possible. Ten years ago the basic HIV treatment cost over $10,000 per person, per year. Today, thanks to generic production, these same medicines are available for just $87 per person enabling 3 million people to be treated across the world.

It says that to avoid a treatment crisis these kind of price reductions need to happen again with the newer HIV medicines. It urges pharmaceutical companies to cooperate by allowing generic manufacturers to produce their HIV medicines cheaply, specifically for developing countries. It asks them to put their patents into a ‘patent pool’ for this purpose. Over 100 MPs have also signed a motion asking companies to do this. You can find out whether your MP has signed up.

The ‘patent pool’ would also allow researchers to work on making HIV medicines suited to the developing world. Currently many HIV medicines are designed for a developed country market and do not consider issues such as what happens when a patient needs to take HIV medicines and TB medicines at the same time. There are also not many special HIV drugs for children, because hardly any children in the developed world have HIV.

 In welcoming the report, International Development Minister, Mike Foster, said:

““The simple fact is that the HIV epidemic continues to outstrip our best efforts. Five people are infected with HIV every minute and for every two people put on treatment, there are 5 people newly infected with HIV.

This important report reminds us that while it is absolutely vital that we work to reduce the human cost of HIV by focusing our efforts on preventing new infections, we must also face up to the stark reality of the treatment challenge we face.

The pharmaceutical industry has an opportunity to act now to help prevent future human catastrophe. It is time for them to state their clear commitment to make new HIV medicines affordable to those who need them most, by working with UNITAID to develop a patent pool.”

The Launch

The report was launched on 14th July 2009 in Parliament, with speeches from David Borrow MP, Chair of the APPG; Mike Foster, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development; and Ellen T'Hoen from the UNITAID Patent Pool in Geneva.

If you would like copies of the report to support your campaigning activities please get in touch with the APPG.