Last Thursday the Energy and Commerce committee of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing entitled, “A Tangle of Trade Barriers: How India’s Industrial Policy is Hurting US Companies.” The hearing is part of a recent big business push which aims to support specific industry complaints against India by lumping them together, in order to claim that India is generally flouting international rules. The strategy could benefit Big Pharma by diverting attention away from access to medicines concerns.
Special 301 is an annual report by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) which places countries on a “watch list” if USTR would like to see greater changes in their intellectual property rules or enforcement practice. This year’s report came out May 1st. We pay attention because USTR relies heavily on comments from big business, and USTR’s opaque standards and criticism of other countries could stymie the development of public interest policies in areas including health. For example, countries have sovereign rights to issue “compulsory licenses” on pharmaceutical patents. Compulsory licensing authorizes price-lowering generic competition with patented drugs in exchange for royalty payments to the patent holder. It’s a key strategy for improving access to affordable medicines, especially in developing countries. But the US has often criticized compulsory licensing, and sometimes sought to stop it (see eg: http://www.citizen.org/leaked-cables-show-US-tried-failed-to-organize-against-ecuador-compulsory-licensing).
On September 3, the government of Indonesia took a quiet but exceptionally important step to expand access to medicines and help save and improve lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B. President Dr. H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a decree authorizing government use of patents for seven HIV/AIDS and hepatitis medicines. If implemented to the full, the measure would introduce widespread generic competition and generate major cost savings in the world’s fourth most populous country.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – To achieve the “AIDS-free generation” for which President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others, have called, we must break the monopoly power of drug companies and change the U.S. approach to trade pacts, Public Citizen said today.
The Obama administration is negotiating a multilateral “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP) free trade agreement with countries in Asia and the Americas, intended to expand to the entire Asia-Pacific region. Leaked documents reveal that U.S. demands for the TPP would radically expand pharmaceutical monopoly power, keeping treatment costs high and threatening to impede the common goal of an “AIDS-free generation.”
[Reposted from the citizenvox blog.] The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a massive package of proposed new economic rules for the Asia-Pacific region (including the US), heavily influenced by corporate priorities through the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and under negotiation right now. You might not have heard of it, but if it’s eventually signed, its secret texts will affect your life.
At the TPP negotiations’ official stakeholder briefing May 13th outside Dallas, USTR announced that the nine TPP country Chief negotiators together had just awarded a prize to the first negotiators to finalize their chapter: rules on small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
A Colombian administrative judge has ruled that Abbott Laboratories and the Ministry of Health threatened and violated collective rights to public health by maintaining the price of an HIV medicine above the reference price, flouting a government order. The court’s decision is a groundbreaking condemnation of Big Pharma pricing abuses and a precedent for health rights in Colombia.
The decision arises from a lawsuit filed by health groups seeking a compulsory license on lopinavir + ritonavir (LPV/r), marketed by Abbott as Kaletra and Aluvia. A compulsory license would introduce cost-cutting generic competition with Abbott’s patent-based monopoly.
Groups Seek Generic Competition for Abbott’s Patented Lifesaving Treatments
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, public health groups in a dozen countries launch a campaign to challenge Abbott Laboratories’ monopolistic hold on lopinavir+ritonavir (also known as Kaletra or Aluvia), a critical HIV/AIDS medicine. The goal is to spur competition by generic drugmakers and thereby lower the medicine’s price, as well as to free up its components for new and improved combination treatments.
In October 2009, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa issued Decree 118 to improve access to medicines and support public health programs through a protocol that would reduce drug costs. The protocol established procedures for the compulsory licensing of pharmaceutical patents. Compulsory licensing authorizes generic competition with patented, monopoly protected drugs. Generic competition reduces costs and enables public agencies to scale-up treatment and other services.
Ecuador’s protocol limits compulsory licensing to medical conditions that are priorities for public health, requiring interagency cooperation to grant licenses on a case-by-case basis and pay royalties to patent holders.
Nevertheless, cables from U.S. Embassy personnel in Ecuador to the U.S. Department of State, released by Wikileaks, show the United States, multinational pharmaceutical companies, and three Ministers within the government shared information and worked to undermine Ecuador’s emerging policy.