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May 07, 2007

Civil society putting Big Pharma on the defense

Around the world, news is streaming in that civil society - and even governmental pressure - is putting Big Pharma on the defensive, deepening the people's revolt that David talked about here.

First off, Brazil. According to the Working Group on Intellectual Property (GTPI) from the Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples (REBRIP), the Brazilian federal government has decided

to issue a compulsory license for the antiviral drug, Efavirenz, whose patent is current held by Merck Sharp & Dohme. This historical decision reinforces the efforts of civil society groups fighting for access to medicines, for the sustainability of public health policies, such as universal and unlimited access to antiretroviral medicines used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, and for the strengthening of the Brazilian public health care system, the Unique Health System (SUS).

Next stop, Thailand. Here, too, civil society is successfully pressuring governments to issue compulsory licenses for life-saving drugs. According to Congress Daily (sorry, not linkable):

U.S. officials added Thailand to the Priority Watch List in their Special 301 report, partly because of Thailand's handling of compulsory licenses it issued to import generic versions of two HIV/AIDS drugs and a heart medication ... Health activists and advocates of fewer restrictions on the use of intellectual property criticized the move. One of them, James Love, executive director of Knowledge Ecology International, said, "The sanctioning of countries for using legitimate and important flexibilities in the [WTO] agreement brings shame to all U.S. citizens who are increasingly seen in Thailand and elsewhere as bullies and hypocrites."

And, final stop, the U.S. of A. Here, public health groups and fair trade activists' pressure on House Democratic leadership may be leading to a groundbreaking reversal of the "patent protectionism" long practiced by the Clinton and Bush administrations in trade deals. Says Mark Drajem of Bloomberg (not linkable):

The negotiators also want to remove requirements that drug patents be extended if the companies face long delays in getting approval to sell their products in those countries, they said. The proposals, if adopted as part of a larger package of changes, would mean House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel and the White House would cut provisions the U.S. insisted upon when those trade agreements were being negotiated... Health activists back the changes, saying they will mean cheaper life-saving medicines for AIDS victims and others in poor nations, according to Rohit Malpani of Oxfam America.

Needless to say, Big Pharma is not happy about these changes, which is why it's crucial that we continue to make our voices heard by clicking here.

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