June 1999


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Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 25 Jun 1999 22:19:16 -0400
Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Aram Falsafi & Wendy Call <[log in to unmask]>
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James Love <[log in to unmask]> on 06/24/99 10:47:48 AM

Please respond to [log in to unmask]

To:   Multiple recipients of list INFO-POLICY-NOTES
      <[log in to unmask]>
cc:    (bcc: Aram Falsafi)
Subject:  Washington Post exonerate's Vice President Gore on African/AIDS issues - does not mention infection rates or other important facts

This Editorial ran in Today's Washington Post.   It seeks to
exonerate Vice President Gore for his role in bring trade
pressures on South Africa to block access to cheaper drugs.
I found the article very offensive.  It completely omits any
discussion of infection rates, the most important fact that
should drive policy and public opinion.  It minimizes Vice
President's role in pressuring South Africa, despite his
direct and deep involvement in US policy over the past two
and a half years, despite the US government successful efforts
to bully South African officials from criticizing US policy
in International forums, despite his decision to withhold
GSP trade benefits over this issue, despite the April 30
USTR announcement of a "special out of cycle review" of
South Africa policy on this issue, and despite his personal
intervention with Mbeki on behalf of the drug companies, and
despite the fact that his own staff has tied US policy to
Gore's efforts to raise campaign contributions from the drug
companies.  It implies the Feb 5 Department of State report
overstated the Clinton/Gore role in placing pressure on
South Africa, without disputing any of the factual issues
raised in the Feb 5 report concerning specific acts to pressure
SA, and it ignores the fact that this whole incident with SA
is in fact part of a much larger US government effort involving
Thailand, India and dozens of other countries on the very same


 Here is the editorial:

Mr. Gore and the AIDS Drugs

Thursday, June 24, 1999; Page A26

VICE PRESIDENT Gore stands accused of defending pharmaceutical
industry profits at the expense of South African AIDS patients.
Welcome to campaign season. The AIDS activists who have heckled
Mr. Gore at his early appearances, seeking to drown him out with
chants of "Gore's Greed Kills," manipulate the facts in what is
actually a much more complicated and interesting debate.

International trade law protects drug company patents, and for
good reason. Companies invest large sums in research that often
leads nowhere but sometimes produces valuable new medicines. If
the industry can't recoup its investment through drug sales, here
and overseas, it won't look for new drugs, and everyone will
suffer -- Americans and foreigners alike.

But poor countries chafe, understandably, when medicines that
could save lives are priced beyond their reach. This conflict
between the legitimate interests of industry and those of the
developing world has no ultimate solution, but avenues of
compromise can be found. More foreign aid from wealthy
countries could be targeted to health care and specifically to
encourage the development of medicines useful to the developing
world. Developing countries could devote a larger share of their
budgets to primary health care, thereby creating more of a market
for useful drugs. Drug companies could more often settle for
lower profit margins when selling or licensing products to
poor nations, especially when the alternative is no sales at all.

In 1997 South Africa approved a new law, aimed at making
medicines more affordable, that multinationals deemed a threat to
patent rights. An industry lawsuit is still pending in South
Africa's courts, so the law has never been implemented, and its
effects remain unclear.

The two practices it might condone, to which industry objects,
are compulsory licensing and parallel importing. Under the
former, the government could force a multinational to grant
manufacturing rights, for a fee, to a local producer; the
latter would allow the import of legally produced medicines from
a third country where they might be cheaper. South Africa
maintains that both may be permitted under international law in
certain cases. Industry for the most part dislikes both ideas.

The Clinton administration, led by Mr. Gore, has sought to
protect industry's legal position. You could make a case that it
should push harder to help South Africa get access to drugs it
can afford. But Mr. Gore has not been as one-sided as industry --
or many Republicans in Congress -- would like. Last year the U.S.
drug industry persuaded a Republican congressman from New Jersey,
home to many pharmaceutical giants, to attach a provision to
the foreign-aid bill blocking U.S. assistance to South Africa's
government until the State Department explained what it was doing
on industry's behalf. The congressman, Rodney Frelinghuysen,
wasn't satisfied with the department's first report, so it
submitted a revision, portraying itself more strongly as a
champion of U.S. industry.

Language from that report -- ordered up because the industry
perceived the administration as too soft on South Africa and
dutifully delivered by the administration to forestall a cutoff
of U.S. aid -- is now cited by Mr. Gore's critics on the other
side as evidence that he is in industry's pocket. As we said,
welcome to the campaign.

For different views, see

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