May 1999


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Aram Falsafi & Wendy Call <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 17 May 1999 23:53:20 -0400
text/plain (293 lines)
[Something to remember when the primaries come around next spring. -Aram]

James Love <[log in to unmask]> on 05/14/99 04:01:26 PM

Please respond to [log in to unmask]

To:   Multiple recipients of list INFO-POLICY-NOTES
      <[log in to unmask]>
cc:    (bcc: Aram Falsafi)
Subject:  Sign-on letter to Vice President Gore regarding his opposition to African access to essential medicines

     Sign-on letter to Vice President Gore regarding his
     opposition to African access to essential medicines

**   Over the past three years public health groups have
     repeatedly petitioned Vice President Gore (co-chair of the
     US/South Africa Binational Commission) and US trade
     organizations to stop pressuring South Africa and other
     developing countries over to access to medicines.

**   The disputes involve complex intellectual property and trade
     matters.  In essence, the US government is demanding that
     South Africa, India, Thailand and many other countries not
     enact provisions in WTO/TRIPS rules on intellectual property
     that would lower drug prices.  The US position is that WTO
     rules regarding protection of patent rights are not high

**   Africa is suffering from a mind boggling public health
     emergency.  According to the US Surgeon General, in nine
     south African nations, 20% to 26% of people between the ages
     of 15 and 49 are infected with HIV/AIDS.  The disease is
     also widespread and growing in Thailand, India and other
     parts of the world, and is associated also with new
     epidemics in tuberculous, meningitis and other diseases.
     Public health authorities believe this is creating new
     treatment resistance strains of infectious illnesses.

**   So far all efforts to change US policy have failed.  On
     April 30, 1999, Vice President Gore authorized the USTR to
     issue a sweeping new review of South Africa policies on
     compulsory licensing, parallel imports and approval of
     generic drugs such as Taxol.  Among other things, the US
     government is officially punishing South African for
     permitting its public health officials to speak out on
     trade and intellectual property issues in the World Health

**   Public health groups now are trying to reach a broader
     audience.  We are asking for signatures on the following
     letter to the Vice President.  We hope we can raise enough
     public awareness in this issue that the Vice President will
     be forced to change US policy. Please help circulate this
     important letter.

     James Love <[log in to unmask]> 202.387.8030

If you are willing to sign, please send the following information
to James Love by mail <[log in to unmask]> or by fax 202.234.5176.

Yes, include my name:
Title (optional):
Affiliation (optional):
City, State, Country:

(For more info, see
signatures will be accepted through June 30, 1999)

<-----the sign-on letter to Vice President Gore------>

Dear Vice President Gore,

     We are writing to express opposition to trade pressures you
are bringing against the people of South Africa over their
struggle to obtain access to essential medicines.

     The White House dispute with South Africa concerns three
basic points.

1.   The South Africa government has indicated it wants to use
     compulsory licensing of medical patents to produce cheaper
     copies of HIV drugs and other essential medicines.  This is
     of course legal under the WTO/TRIPS agreement, subject to
     Article 31 safeguards.

2.   The South Africa government wants to authorize "parallel
     imports" of pharmaceuticals, so that it can buy drugs in the
     United States, Europe or elsewhere, in order to get the best
     world price.  As you know, parallel importing of
     pharmaceuticals is legal under Article 6 of the WTO/TRIPS
     agreement, and is a common practice in Europe.

3.   The South African government has approved generic versions
     of Taxol, a US government invention for treating cancer.

     As co-chairman of the US/South Africa Binational Commission
(BNC) you have authorized a wide range of trade pressures against
South Africa, much of which is documented in a February 5, 1999
report to the Congress by the US Department of State.

     Despite increasing criticism of the US bilateral pressures
on South Africa, here and internationally, your office has
authorized new trade pressures against South Africa on April 30,
1999.  (

     The April 3 "in many southern African countries, HIV/AIDS
has become an unprecedented emergency, with 20% to 26% of people
between the ages of 15 and 49 infected." 0, 1999 announcement of
a Special 301 out-of-cycle review of trade pressures against
South Africa ignored every shred of information that has been
provided to your office by public health groups.  Indeed, this
most recent announcement is basically a recycled version of the
February 16, 1999 submissions by the Pharmaceutical Research and
Manufactures Association (PhRMA), the trade association that
represents giant drug companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Glaxo,
Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson that are trying to stop South
Africa from implementing policies to cut costs for
pharmaceuticals in South Africa.

     It is shocking that the US government is adapting such an
aggressive trade policy on behalf of US pharmaceutical companies,
when all of sub-Saharan Africa is confronted with a public health
crisis of historical dimensions.  The US Surgeon General, Dr.
David Satcher, recently wrote in the Journal of the America
Medical Association that "HIV/AIDS can be likened to the plague
that decimated the population of Europe in the 14th century."
Dr. Satcher says that "in many southern African countries,
HIV/AIDS has become an unprecedented emergency, with 20% to 26%
of people between the ages of 15 and 49 infected."

     This is a here-and-now emergency.  It is not a hypothetical
or potential emergency.  These people will die without access to
pharmaceutical drugs.

     Your response to this emergency should be to find ways to
save lives.  But look what you are doing.

**   You are aggressively seeking the repeal of legislation in
     South Africa that would permit that country to do what
     nations in Europe do, use parallel imports to buy drugs at
     the best world price.  South Africa wants to use market
     forces to cut drug costs.  You are pushing to protect
     pharmaceutical companies from global competition, thereby
     forcing the South Africa people to pay premiums to buy

**   You are punishing South Africa for even speaking out in
     favor of compulsory licensing of HIV/AIDS and other
     essential medicines.  The April 30, 1999 report on South
     Africa complains that:

          During the past year, South African
          representatives have led a faction of nations
          in the World Health Organization (WHO) in
          calling for a reduction in the level of
          protection provided for pharmaceuticals in

     In fact, everything South Africa is seeking to do is legal
     under the WTO/TRIPS agreement, so this and countless other
     statements by US government officials are bald lies.  But
     regardless, the exercise of free speech in international
     forums is an astonishing basis for trade sanctions.  As an
     elected official, indeed, as a human, how would you act if
     20 percent of all sexually active young people in the United
     States were infected with a fatal disease, and a foreign
     country was trying to prevent you from purchasing drugs on
     the global market to save money, and was preventing you from
     licensing firms to manufacture life saving medicines?  Would
     you simply show up at the World Health Assembly and docilely
     applaud the actions of that country?  Even if that foreign
     country was engaged in a relentless public relations
     campaign to label every legal action as a form of piracy or
     lawlessness?  At what point would you have the guts to tell
     the world the truth, and to speak out on behalf of millions
     of infected young men and women?

**   You are punishing South Africa for giving approval to
     generic versions of Taxol, a cancer drug that was invented
     by the US government.  There are aspects of the US
     government complaint about Taxol that are absurd, on
     technical grounds, such as the insistence that South Africa
     extend longer periods of data exclusivity than are required
     in the United States.  But the larger issue is more basic.
     Why on earth should Vice President Al Gore or any other US
     government employee seek to prevent global competition for
     Taxol, a life saving cancer drug that was invented and
     developed by the US National Institutes of Health?  Taxol
     was in NIH sponsored Phase III trials before the Bush
     Administration gave BMS exclusive rights to use NIH research
     for drug approvals.  What is the moral basis for extending
     the BMS monopoly on Taxol in a country that is so poor?

     As the Vice President of the United States you are in a
position to do much good or much harm in the world.  US voters
will soon be asked to determine if you should be the next
President of the United States.  Please explain why they should
choose you.


James Love
Consumer Project on Technology

Dr. Bernard P

Project Director
Access to Essential Drugs
Médecins Sans Frontières

Joelle Tanguy
Executive Director
Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres USA

Eric Sawyer
Executive Director
HIV/AIDS Human Rights Project

Kim Nichols
Development Director
African Services Committee, Inc.

Bas van der Heide
Health Action International Europe

Beryl Leach
Africa Program Coordinator
Health Action International

Lori Wallach
Global Trade Watch

Professor Richard Laing
Boston University

Robert Weissman
Essential Action

David Scondras
Search for a Cure

Bob Lederer
Senior Editor
POZ Magazine

Steve Suppan, PhD
Director of Research
Institute for Agriculture and Trade

Axel Delmotte
Act Up - Paris

Professor Patrick Bond
University of the Witwatersrand
Graduate School of Public and Development Management
Johannesburg, South Africa

Clarence Mini, MD
Treatment Action Campaign
Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, South Africa

Ellen 't Hoen
International Drug Policy Consultant
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

James Love, Director, Consumer Project on Technology
I can be reached at [log in to unmask], by telephone 202.387.8030,
by fax at 202.234.5176. CPT web page is