The number of effective HIV drugs currently approved and on the market is a testament to committed research and treatment advocacy at every stage of development. Ensuring that HIV treatment research and drug development continue has always been a priority at Project Inform. But the HIV pipeline has noticeably shrunk significantly in the last few years and there has been concern over the strength of ongoing HIV drug development.
Several drug companies have merged recently, including Schering-Plough with Merck and the creation of an entirely new entity combining GSK and Pfizer into a new company called ViiV. It is unclear whether these mergers are a result of shrinking drug development, or an indication of pooling resources to continue HIV drug development. Either way, there are big changes occurring in HIV drug companies, yet the epidemic still looms and there are improvements to be made with current drugs including better tolerability, and dosing, and a need for entirely new drug classes.
In order to hold drug companies accountable through activist pressure and media exposure the AIDS Treatment Activist Coalition (ATAC, www.atac-usa.org) -- in which Project Inform is a member -- issued a drug company report card in September 2009 that rated the 9 largest HIV pharmaceutical companies: Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Hoffman La Roche, Merck & Co., Pfizer and Tibotec.
The companies were ranked by the group and an average “grade” was given according to their innovation in drug development, patient access to the drugs, pricing, community relations and marketing practices. The average company grade for all of the companies was C- which seems indicative of the pace of drug development at this time. Abbott Laboratories received the lowest average grade of F. Merck & Co. and Tibotec received the highest scores of B.
The report card was sent to the individual companies with recommendations for improvements, including the development of newer, safer drugs for people who have run out of options, consultation with the AIDS community earlier in the drug development process and provision for wider access. The entire report can be viewed on the ATAC website, or at Project Inform.