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February 20, 2002

Do Patents Prevent Access to Drugs for HIV in Developing Countries?—Reply

Author Affiliations

Stephen J.LurieMD, PhDIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 2002;287(7):840-843. doi:10.1001/jama.287.7.839

In Reply: Our study showed that patent coverage in Africa for antiretroviral medications was modest (21.6%), and that several of the best HAART regimens (those that are "strongly recommended" in the current Department of Health and Human Services treatment guidelines) are totally unpatented in up to 52 of 53 (98%) African countries. None of the letters disputes these facts or any of our data.

We believe that modest patent coverage should actually be welcome news for public health: it means there is large scope to treat Africans with AIDS, using generic drugs if desired. The authors of all 3 letters disagree, citing counterexamples where patents exist. Where we see opportunities in that the glass is 78.4% (or 98%?) full, others object that it is 21.6% empty.1