[Ip-health] 30+ Civil Society Orgs to USTR: Stop Threatening to Block Colombia’s OECD Accession over Pharma/Biotech Lobby Interests

Kim Treanor kim.treanor at keionline.org
Tue Mar 20 09:19:56 PDT 2018


30+ Civil Society Orgs to USTR: Stop Threatening to Block Colombia’s OECD
Accession over Pharma/Biotech Lobby Interests

kim.treanor at keionline.org

A broad international coalition of over 30 human rights organizations,
including some across the United States and Latin America, have come
together to ensure that providing access to health care doesn’t come at the
expense of the health of the Colombian economy.

Colombia is trying to join the Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD), but recent efforts to expand access to affordable
medicines in the country have led to objections from powerful US based
interest groups and the U.S. government itself. Specifically, Colombia has
been targeted for exploring a compulsory license for the cancer drug
Gleevec (Glivec in Colombia) before opting for a unilateral price
reduction, and for its biosimilar pathway, among other legal and regulatory
efforts. Colombia’s Ministry of Health is also currently considering a
civil society request for compulsory licenses on expensive HCV medicines

These special interests have reached the office of the United States Trade
Representative and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who have been pressuring
Colombia to yield to the interests of pharmaceutical companies if it wishes
to join the OECD. In a February 14 letter from the US Trade Representative,
Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, to Colombia’s Minister of Trade, Industry and
Tourism Maria Lorena Gutiérrez, Lighthizer said that the USTR expected
Colombia to reach out to pharmaceutical industry “stakeholders” with a
“focused and sustained outreach and listening campaign” before the U.S.
would provide a positive opinion on the country’s OECD membership status.

Andrew S. Goldman, counsel for policy & legal affairs for Knowledge Ecology
International, said:

This is at least the second time that big drug companies have recently
sought to link unrelated policies to drug prices, in order to make U.S.
foreign policy an arm of the drug industry. Our relationship with Colombia,
and solidarity with the people of Colombia, should not be defined by the
interests of the pharmaceutical industry and its neverending quest for
higher and higher prices on life-extending and life-saving medicines.

Andrea Carolina Reyes Rojas, of Misión Salud, Colombia, offered the
following statement:

Colombia’s efforts to increase access to medicines are entirely aligned
with the country’s commitment with the achievement of Universal Health
Coverage (goal 3.8 of SDG’s) and with the country’s obligation to protect,
respect and fulfill the human right to health as it is recognized in
international agreements (CESCR General Comment No. 14, Paragraph 33) and
in domestic laws. As citizens we have encouraged these efforts for a long
time and understand that being part of the OECD would mean having a wider
and stronger policy that favors access to medicines, since that
organization promotes policies “that will improve the economic and social
well-being of people around the world.” We consider it imperative that the
USTR listens and understands the importance of the call of the UNHLP on
Access to Medicines and, as a consequence, stops placing political and
economic pressure on governments to forego the use of TRIPS flexibilities
and starts to be a voice that prioritizes health of people worldwide.

OECD membership would give Colombia a voice in negotiations with powerful
countries representing a majority of the global market. The organization
provides a forum for governments to work together to solve common problems,
and to set standards that could become policy recommendations to all member
countries. Crucial to Colombia’s economy, OECD membership makes a country
far more attractive to potential investors.

Rather than punish Colombia for prioritizing access to care over the
interests of pharmaceutical corporations, the efforts of Colombia to expand
access to affordable medicines should be an example for OECD member states.

Leonardo Palumbo, US Advocacy Adviser, Access Campaign at Doctors Without
Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), offered the following comment:

USTR’s threat to stand in the way of Colombia’s OECD accession is the
latest example of inappropriate pressure by the US government at the behest
of pharmaceutical corporations—pressure that is helping companies and
hurting people in need of lifesaving medicines. Colombia shouldn’t have to
answer to the US or pharma for using legal measures permitted by
international trade rules to address the public health needs of its
citizens. At a time when high drug prices are a barrier globally, the US
should be encouraging, not undermining, countries taking steps to help
people afford the medicines they need to live healthy and productive lives.

The coalition urges the USTR to stop promoting the interests of
pharmaceutical corporations at the expense of people’s health and
Colombia’s legal rights to increase access to affordable medicines.

Peter Maybarduk, Director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program,

It is a serious mistake to believe, as President Trump claims, that higher
drug prices abroad lead to lower prices at home. The Trump Administration
blames high U.S. medicine prices on other countries. But the only effective
means of lowering medicine prices at home is to lower medicine prices at
home. Washington pressure on other countries to raise medicine prices could
lead to the deaths of many, while missing an historic opportunity to make
medicines affordable for everyone.

Kim Treanor
Knowledge Ecology International
kim.treanor at keionline.org
tel.: +1.202.332.2670

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