European Commission Outlines New Overseas Disease Plan

May 2, 2005

The European Commission has unveiled a hopeful-sounding series of proposals to coordinate member states' actions on malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS in the developing world. Draft plans include the provision of more free contraceptives, AIDS testing and affordable pharmaceuticals. Notably, the plans also envisage strengthening regulation in pandemic countries, as well as boosting European R&D and enhancing the European Union's (EU) low-cost drug procurement rules.

The plans come in the wake of public pledges by European pharmaceuticals makers to increase supplies of cheap medicines to low-income countries. French drug major sanofi-aventis recently created a "tiered pricing policy" for poor countries in Africa, and is developing its Arsucam (artemisinin/amodiaquine) anti-malarial formulation as a simplified, single, three-doses-per-day pill. Cooperation with the Egyptian government on polio, as well as plans to cut African retail prices on its drugs by 70%, was also pledged.

Drugmakers' initiatives aside, however, implementation of the plans is not expected until after the second quarter, as the EU's General Affairs and External Relations Council is not scheduled to discuss the document until the end of May. Further, a policy framework on the issue released in November last year is also yet to be put into action.