Candidate GORE zaps

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why Gore, or Are you going after the rest of the candidates?

Gore isn't just the Vice-President and candidate for President, he's also Chair of the US-South Africa Bi-National Trade Commission. In this capacity, he is actively and aggressively setting the genocidal policy that we are protesting. There's no partisan reason for targeting him--unless the nausea that his invocation of "compassion" and "conscience" evokes.

Gore is the one who has been threatening trade sanctions. Both his cabinet and campaign team is stacked with Pharmaceutical company insiders, and he has received massive donations from "big pharma" for this campaign.

Q: Why do the drug companies care about poor countries producing generic drugs? or Are the companies concerned that they will lose profits if countries make their own drugs?

Developing countries will never be able to pay the prices charged for these drugs. The drug companies do not have a market there. However, they are willing to deny access to lifesaving medication for millions rather than allow it to be known that drugs are CHEAP to produce.

Q: Isnt' there a concern about the safety of generic drugs produced by compulsory licensing?

We believe that drug safety is a domestic regulatory issue, not an global trade issue worthy of trade sanctions. It is simple to use basic technology to verify the purity and content of these drugs, and there is no reason to believe that countries utilizing compulsory licensing or parallel importing would not take these measures.

Q: What is this group? Do you have a leader? How many members are there? etc.

AIDS Drugs for Africa is an affinity group representing thousands of people with HIV and activists nationwide who are outraged that our government is blocking access to drugs for developing countries.

Q: Didn't Al Gore give $100 million to "AIDS in Africa?"

Gore staffers have acknowledged that the proposal is a public relations symbol by the Vice President.

The AIDS Czar Sandy Thurman made a fact finding trip to Sub-Saharan Africa, and developed a proposal for $100 million. The proposal was set aside because Congress must pass the bill that provides the money. Gore dusted it off, after being targeted during his campaign appearances by AIDS activists.

The $100 million proposal would have to cover all poor countries, including countries in Africa, Asia and the former Soviet Union. not just
African nations. By the time that the dollars were divided up, the amount could result in largely insignificant donations.

The funds were to be used for disease prevention and other important services, but almost nothing would have gone to treatment.

Congress must still pass this request for new funds. But funding caps and the Republican Congress's fight for a massive upper-income targeted tax cut means that it is almost certain that the proposal for a donation for AIDS in developing nations will not pass.

Q: Didn't PhRMA drop its lawsuit against South Africa last week [9/9/99]?

PhRMA is the organization that lobbies for drug companies. They filed suit against the South African Medicines Act, the law that would increase access to essential medications through compulsory licensing and parallel importing. The law has not been put into effect, because of this lawsuit in the South African courts.

After a closed door meeting at the White House two weeks ago with Al Gore and the USTR (US Trade Representative), PhRMA issued a press statement stating that it was 'suspending' its lawsuit until January. The press statement seemed to imply that PhRMA had reached an Africa. PhRMA claimed that South Africa had agreed to resubmit the Medicines Act to Parliament for re-drafting due to negotiations.

However, the South African Government issued a press statement saying that no negotiations of any sort were underway.

The law was already being resubmitted to the South African Parliament due to an old court ruling asking for clarification on an unrelated regulatory issue.

The temporary suspension of the lawsuit is hopefully a good thing, removing one barrier to drug access in South Africa. However, the lawsuit is still active, has not been withdrawn, and could be resumed at any moment.

Some observers have argued that Gore pressured PhRMA to withdraw its lawsuit until after the crucial New Hampshire Primary, where Gore faces the strongest challenge from Senator Bradley.

Q: Why have activists been hounding Al Gore? Isn't he "good on AIDS?"

Gore is the Co-Chair of the US- South African Bi-National Commission, which is responsible for trade negotiations with South Africa. Al Gore has always played a major role in the free-trade initiatives of the administration.

A leaked Department of State Document reported on Gore's attempts to make "pharmaceutical patents a central focus of his discussions with [then] Deputy President Mbeki" during Bi-national Commission meetings. He was taking the side of the drug companies, threatening South Africa with trade sanctions if they made their own AIDS drugs.

Gore has more power than he used to, since he is a candidate for President. He can fight for changes in the Clinton Administration. He can
be pressured to take a stand on issues, because he is looking for ways to impress voters that he will do the right thing.

Q: Was South Africa out of compliance with international trade agreements?

The USTR claims that the South African Medicines Act was too vague, because it didn't spell out in the Act that it would reimburse patent
holders. While patent lawyers argue that TRIPS doesn't actually require reimbursement payments, the South African Government spelled out reimbursement policies in its laws governing its patent system.

Q: Is the U.S. interfering with drug access in other nations?

Brazil passed a law greatly reducing access to locally produced versions of patented drugs. This happened under direct pressure from the Clinton/Gore administration.

Even though Brazil's constitution guarantees access to drugs, the Health Budget was broken by the new, high costs of medications. Many people with HIV, as well as other illnesses, who were receiving therapy, were suddenly left without drugs. Other countries that parallel-imported drugs from Brazil have suffered from the Clinton/Gore push as well.

On August 26, activists asked the Minster of Health to restart Compulsory Licensing as a way out. One week later, hundreds of demonstrators marched in three cities in Brazil demanding life saving medication.

The Administration has taken the wrong side in struggles around access to essential medicines in Thailand, India, and Argentina as well.

Q: Drug companies say that medicines are priced so high because that is the only way to pay for research and development of new medicine. If a country is able to make their own drugs, won't companies be less likely to invent new drugs?

No, for two reasons.

#1) The Federal Government-U.S. tax dollars-heavily subsidize new drug research and development. A slim majority of new drugs sold in the United States drugs are developed primarily with U.S. tax dollars.

In fact, the federal government retains rights on these drugs under the Bayh-Dole laws, and could license the World Health Organization to provide drugs to poor countries at or below manufacturing cost. These rights cover many important AIDS medications, including DDI, d4T (nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors), and Norvir (a protease inhibitor).

Drug companies actually spend far more on marketing and advertising than on research.

#2) Drug companies actually make almost no money from poor countries.

The African Continent is home to 10% of the world's population. But the African continent amounts to only 1.5% of the global pharmaceutical market.

However, 67% of people with HIV are in Africa...22.7 million people. 5500 people die from AIDS every day in Africa.

The pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable industry in the world.

Drug companies would prefer to sell their products at astronomically high prices to the wealthiest nations. Drug companies go to great lengths to hide their actual research and development costs, as well as their actual manufacturing costs. The companies do not wish for the high-paying drug consumers of the world to discover that most life-saving medicines costs only pennies to manufacture.

Drug companies have pursued a pricing policy that is very good for profit margins. However, these pricing policies leave the most of the world for dead.

Q: Don't many poor countries lack the health care infrastructure to give out AIDS medicines properly?

Some countries do, and some countries don't. Many countries may not have adequate hospitals and doctors for distant rural areas, but have very sophisticated systems in place in urban areas. This is also true in the United States, but we do not deny rural people or urban people access to medication.

Q: Won't impoverished nations prescribe poor drug combinations that could lead to the transmission of drug resistant AIDS?

Before protease inhibitors, every person with HIV receiving therapy in the world had sub-optimal therapy which could lead to drug-resistant AIDS. These individuals still appreciated the life extensions that single drug therapy afforded.

Drug resident strains are occuring in the United States and other countries with access to medications. Yet, people are living longer and healthier lives. It is arrogant to assume that people in other countries will do a worse job of taking medication. The United States has no
business denying the opportunity for health to sovereign nations.

Q: Why are we worried about AIDS over there, when there is so much suffering in the United States?

United States decision makers, responsible to United States citizens, have created policy that costs millions of lives. While U.S. citizens usually can do little to help suffering of the residents of other countries, we are responsible for the global actions of our elected government.

Julie Davids ACT UP Philadelphia

 

Mbeki spoke for South Africa in negotiations with U.S. Vice President Gore about South Africa's Medicines Act, in 1998, before there was a public issue about compulsory licensing, etc. in this country.

Here is a description of the context of that negotiation by Eric Sawyer, interviewed a year ago in AIDS Treatment News (issue #317, April 16, 1999):

"Just last week, after the Geneva meeting, we obtained a U.S. State Department document which shows how aggressively the pharmaceutical industry has infiltrated the highest levels of the U.S. government ("U.S. Government Efforts to Negotiate the Repeal, Termination or Withdrawal of Article 15(c) of the South African Medicines and Related Substances Act of 1965," February 5, 1999). This 10-page document, written for three Congressional committees, provides a date-by-date, meeting-by-meeting history of pressure by the U.S. government on the South African government, to get South Africa to repeal a 1997 amendment which allowed for the parallel importing and compulsory licensing of essential medicines in South Africa.

It says the State Department understands the desire to make essential medicines available, but then says the U.S. government will defend the profits and patents of its multinational pharmaceutical companies. It's there in detail, including trade sanctions imposed, and ongoing involvement of Vice President Gore, who made pharmaceutical patents in particular a central issue in his discussions with South African Deputy President Mbeki during their meeting in Washington in August, 1998. Ralph Nader and James Love of the Consumer Project on Technology, in an April 8, 1999 letter to Gore, described the document as "chapter and verse of a two year campaign to use the weight of U.S. power, short of military warfare, on South Africa to prevent that country from implementing policies to obtain cheaper sources of essential medicines"--at a time when "public health officials estimate that one in five pregnant women in South Africa are HIV positive, and that more than 45% of the South African military personnel are infected."

see also:

Candidate GORE Bought-Off by Pharmaceutical Industry
Washington Post Article 5-21-2000

 

Demonstration: Protesting Congressional African Trade Bill
________________ _ ____ _April 21, 1999 Washington, DC

 



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