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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Brown: Do National Drug Policies Influence Antiretroviral Drug Prices?

Life-saving antiretroviral treatment has become a critical part of the growing global action to tackle the AIDS epidemic. The price of antiretrovirals has dropped 99% over the last 15 years, making this treatment a possibility for many who were previously unable to afford and access medicines. Although drug prices have been declining in low- and middle-income countries, the role and efficacy of these countries’ national drug policies in managing antiretroviral prices is not well understood.


[Photo: Mr. Yao Liu]

The purpose of this paper, led by Mr. Yao Liu, currently a student at the Alpert Medical School but who started this research while an undergraduate student at Brown University, was to analyze global antiretroviral prices and examine the relationship of national drug policies to these prices.

Liu and his coauthor Dr. Omar Galarraga, an Assistant Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice at the Brown University School of Public Health, selected 10 of the most common antiretroviral drugs and assessed the national drug policies of 12 countries in the South African Development Community. They found that generic status was the best predictor of antiretroviral drug price – the generic versions of 8 out of the 10 drugs were priced lower than branded versions. Surprisingly, transaction volume, HIV prevalence, involvement in an international organization/program like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief or the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and national drug policies were either not associated with antiretroviral drug price or were not consistent predictors of price across different drugs.

Considering the importance of providing life-saving antiretroviral treatment to those in low- and middle-income countries, this study shines an important light on the factors that contribute to the price of antiretrovirals. In the context of emerging international trade agreements, which aim to strengthen patient protections and potentially delay the sale of generic drugs in low- and middle-income countries, the results of this study emphasize the importance of generic drugs in controlling antiretroviral prices.

This study was published in Health Policy and Planning, Sept. 1 (ahead of print), 2016.

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