[Ip-health] English translation of April 28 Colombian embassy letter now available.

Jamie Love james.love at keionline.org
Thu May 12 09:10:48 PDT 2016

There is now an English translation of the April 28 Colombian embassy
letter at the bottom of the blog.


Here are also four comments about the
Colombian Embassy

1.  James Love, KEI Director

The Senate Finance Committee is seeking to undermine a number of agreements
on access to medicines, including Article 16.13 of the U.S. Colombia Free
Trade Agreement, "Understandings Regarding Certain Public Health Measures."
The use of these back channel methods of conveying threats and pressure is
common, and the leak of these two letters provides insight into why
governments that have the right to issue compulsory licenses rarely do. The
fact that after meeting with Eissenstat, the Colombian Embassy connects the
patent dispute to the funding of the Colombian peace process illustrates
how the United States can link health and national security together in
ways that a harmful to both. A USTR official once told KEI that the US
government would use 'all the powers at its disposal to achieve its
objectives' in the context of disputes involving patents on medicines. This
was a frightening notion at the time, and relevant here. The combination of
great power and secrecy regarding the use of coercion to achieve objectives
presents risks that need to discussed and challenged by those who value
health, fairness and democratic processes.

​ ​
Andrew Goldman, Counsel, Policy and Legal Affairs, KEI

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee intervention in a Colombia dispute over
cancer drug patents held by a Swiss company illustrates how interconnected
is power and privilege, and how big companies can influence multiple
governments to protect high drug prices.

​ ​
Carolina Botero, Fundacion Karisma

The relation between trade agreements and public policy shaping has long
been known and denounced by civil society. The Colombian letters in the
Novartis case evidence a more subtle and much more hard to confront
pressure used by powerful countries to put developing States against the
wall. How can a government choose between peace and a patent? How can they
explain that to their constituents? At the end this is a very effective
mechanism that explains why compulsory licences are just a legal tool but
not an effective tool.

​ ​
Andrea Carolina Reyes Rojas - Misión Salud

We disagree with US intervention considering completely undue. How is it
possible that between civilized people can somebody put someone else to
choose between peace or health?

But we feel ashamed by Colombian officials response to that intervention.
We trust that being imatinib a second step (being the first one all the
political pressure that took place when trying to regulate biotecnological
medicines), we can start building a country where sovereignty, courage,
commitment with human rights and transparency are our priorities.

We need countries to respect, protect and fulfill the right to health of
citizens and we also ask those countries where multinational pharmaceutical
companies belong, such us United States and Switzerland, to fulfill their
duty of international cooperation and align with low and middle income
countries to prioritize health above commercial and financial interests.
This applies to our current situation in Colombia regarding imatinib, but
goes completely beyond it, reaching international urgent process such as
the implementation of the core recommendations of the CEWG (World Health
Assembly level) and the United Nations High-Level Panel on Access to

Translation of the letter into English by Anne-Beatrix Keller-Semadeni

               TODOS POR UN
                      NUEVO PAIS

            Embassy of Colombia in the United States


In Washington, D.C., on April 28, 2016

Dr. Alejandro Gaviria
Minister of Health
Bogotá D.C.


Dear Minister,

As announced in the letter I-EUSWHT-16-868 that we sent yesterday, April
27, staff members of the Embassy and of the Commercial Office and myself
met with Everett Eissenstat, member of the Senate Finance Committee to
discuss the possible declaration of public interest regarding the issuance
of a compulsory licence on the drug GLIVEC manufactured by the
pharmaceutical company NOVARTIS. It is worth mentioning that Mr. Eissenstat
is the Chief International Trade Counsel for the republican side of the
Finance Committee.

Mr. Eissenstat commented on the discomforts that the announcement by the
Ministry of Health of a possible compulsory licence on the drug GLIVEC had
caused in the United States. Mr. Eissenstat believes that there are not
enough reasons to justify the legality of a compulsory licence for GLIVEC.
Therefore, he thinks that if that happened, Colombia would violate the
intellectual property rights of the company NOVARTIS, as well as, among
other treaties, the free trade agreement between Colombia and the United

Moreover, Mr. Eissenstat mentioned that although NOVARTIS is not an
American company, the US pharmaceutical industry is very worried by the
fact that such a case might become a precedent that could be applied for
any patent in any industry. This, according to him, could tarnish
Colombia’s reputation regarding the respect of intellectual property rights
and place Colombia among the countries that would receive a special

Mr. Eissenstat also mentioned that if the Ministry of Health did not
correct this situation, the pharmaceutical industry in the United States
and related interest groups could become very vocal and interfere with
other interests that Colombia could have in the United States.

As mentioned in our letter of yesterday, we are concerned that this case
could jeopardize the approval of the financing of the new initiative “Paz
Colombia”. We also worry of the potential of a dispute with the parties
affected in light of the provisions of the free trade agreement.

We are waiting for decisions and instructions in this case.

Yours faithfully,


       Andrés Flórez

Deputy Chief of Mission

James Love.  Knowledge Ecology International
KEI DC tel: +1.202.332.2670, US Mobile: +1.202.361.3040, Geneva Mobile:
+41.76.413.6584, twitter.com/jamie_love

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