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12/30/2016 12:25 pm ET Updated Dec 31, 2017

Is the Clinton Foundation Responsible for the High Price of AIDS Drugs in the US?

Is there any truth to the claim that the Clinton Foundation schemed with Big Pharma to keep the price of AIDS drugs high in the U.S.? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Christopher VanLang, Chemical Engineering PhD from Stanford University, on Quora:

Is there any truth to the claim that the Clinton Foundation schemed with Big Pharma to keep the price of AIDS drugs high in the U.S.? It's sort of true. If you really had to think long and hard about it, the ultimate result of years of negotiations by the Clinton Foundation was that the price of AIDS drugs ended up being high in the US.

But that consequence had the immediate result of enabling the import of millions of nearly free AIDS drugs into Africa to combat the AIDs-Pandemic, forestalling the spread of AIDS.

So that we're clear, Bill Clinton is very proud of this. He prides himself on understanding the nuances of supply and demand and as a crazy detail oriented policy wonk who understands the needs of multiple stakeholders, this is a remarkable example of him convincing a lot of stubborn groups to compromise on a variety of issues to achieve a common goal. In this case, getting AIDS drugs to Africa. [1]

In fact, here is Bill Clinton talking about exactly this during his TED Prize acceptance speech. Also, watching this video gives a ton of insight about Hillary Clinton's (now former) strategy for healthcare and why she and Bill have strong criticisms of Obamacare. The Clinton Health Access Initiative worked with George Bush's President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund on AIDS to get drugs into Africa. Drug companies were largely in favor of giving their drugs for free to Africa, it made no sense to make people who earned pennies to pay out thousandss of dollars for drugs. Furthermore, African governments were paranoid that drug companies were a part of a massive conspiracy suppressing their countries. [2] [3]

Enter Bill. He understood that companies were willing to give the drugs for free. African countries were desperate to take them. The only problem was actually getting those drugs into the country without compromising the integrity of the US pharmaceutical industry. A large part was organizing the pathways for large pharmaceutical companies to negotiate with generic manufacturers and giving them licenses to manufacture and sell the same drugs directly into Africa for a fraction of the costs. In return, the African countries and generic manufacturers would respect the IP of the US drug companies and not sell the same drugs in the US markets. The Clinton Foundation enabled all of these discussions to occur and thus received a lot of the credit for making this possible.

That said, one of the beneficiaries of this agreement was Ranbaxy Laboratories (company) which in 2013, was caught for fabricating many of their generic AIDS drugs. [4] [5]

Thus, by closing a loophole that enabled foreign generic manufacturers from selling in the US, the US pharmaceutical companies were willing to share their IP to generics which allowed for the sales of AIDS drugs with a 90% discount on costs to Africa and in doing so saved the world from the AIDS pandemic.

But with the trade off that US AIDS drugs prices would stay the same since US companies had assurance that generic manufacturers would respect their exclusivity clauses.

So yes, the Clinton Foundation did scheme with Big Pharma to keep the price of AIDS drugs high in the US.

They also helped to save Africa.

Footnotes:

[1] The Clinton Foundation and its fight against HIV/AIDS

[2] Clinton Makes Up for Lost Time in Battling AIDS

[3] Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative

[4] Dirty medicine

[5] Why is the Indian pharmaceutical company Ranbaxy still allowed to do business in the United States?

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