[Ip-health] Bernie Sanders Calls Out Obama Team On Global Drug Prices

Zack Struver zack.struver at keionline.org
Wed Sep 30 06:04:15 PDT 2015


Bernie Sanders Calls Out Obama Team On Global Drug Prices
The Democratic presidential hopeful invoked Pope Francis in his appeal.

Zach Carter
Senior Political Economy Reporter, The Huffington Post
Posted: 09/29/2015 05:35 PM EDT | Edited: 09/29/2015 07:31 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Monday
urged the Obama administration to reverse its opposition to a proposal
aimed at preventing drug price increases in the world's poorest countries.

"Making sure people in poor countries have access to life-saving medicine
is our moral responsibility," Sanders wrote in a letter to U.S. Trade
Representative Michael Froman. "I respectfully ask you to reconsider this

In February, poor countries asked the World Trade Organization to exempt
them from patents and other intellectual property standards for medicines.
Such rules grant companies long-term monopolies, dramatically driving up
the cost of treatment by preventing generic drugs from entering the market.

AIDS and HIV treatment once cost thousands of dollars a year in poor
countries before generics were introduced for about $1 a day. The WTO will
rule on the plan in mid-October.

In public the Obama administration has been mum on the proposal all year,
despite pressure from high-profile public health groups including Doctors
Without Borders, Oxfam and Knowledge Ecology International. In his letter,
Sanders said that his staff had learned that the government does not
support the proposal.

Sanders, an independent Senator from Vermont, quoted Pope Francis’ concern
for the poor in his letter and called the proposed introduction of a more
lenient international medicines standard an opportunity to fight global

Under the proposal, any country classified by the United Nations as a
"Least-Developed Country" would be exempt from granting patents and other
monopolies on medication. Unlike prior exemptions, this one would last for
as long as the U.N. classifies a country as "Least-Developed," making it
easier for poor countries to make longer-term public health plans. The
current exemption for LDC countries expires in January.

The U.N. Development Programme and the Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS
have both said that the failure to approve the new proposal could
jeopardize the public health of huge numbers of people worldwide.

“Millions of people rely on access to affordable, assured quality generic
medicines,” Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, said. “WTO members
have before them a critical opportunity to help least-developed countries
to reach health and sustainable development goals -- failure to support
them could put millions of lives at risk.”

Froman's office declined to offer any details on the administration's
thinking when contacted by The Huffington Post.

“USTR has received Senator Sanders’s letter regarding the World Trade
Organization (WTO) TRIPS Agreement, and we will respond to him directly
regarding its contents," USTR spokesman Andrew Bates said in a written
statement provided to HuffPost. "The United States has agreed to all past
extensions of TRIPS Agreement waivers for LDCs, and we are working at the
WTO in Geneva with LDC members to find an appropriate solution.”

Major pharmaceutical companies, record labels and movie studios have long
supported aggressive intellectual property standards as a method of
securing higher profits. The Obama administration has supported such
policies in a host of international forums, to the chagrin of public health

Read the full Sanders letter here.

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