Clinton backs emergency rollout of AIDS-drug copycats

The big headlines from yesterday's three-president World AIDS Day confab marked President Obama's pledge to get antiretroviral drugs to millions of more people. But it was former President Bill Clinton who took more people by surprise--including, no doubt, makers of brand-name HIV-fighting drugs.

As The Washington Post reports, Clinton proposed that Congress usher in a two-year HIV drug emergency period, in which generic copies of branded AIDS meds could be sold before patent protection expires. The measure would allow cash-strapped state governments--which are now cutting their AIDS-drug assistance programs--to continue supplying patients.

"I'm very worried--the death rate is going to go up because of the budgetary restraints on states," Clinton said (as quoted by the Wall Street Journal).

Such a move would mimic provisions that allow poor nations to gain access to cheap generic versions of lifesaving treatments in times of emergency--an epidemic, say--through compulsory licensing. The details of Clinton's proposal aren't available at this point, but the potential results are: The Austin American-Statesman is reporting that discounts and rebates offered by AIDS drug maker Gilead Sciences ($GILD) will save Texas' financially troubled drug-assistance program, allowing more patients to be served.

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