NEW RIGHT-WING AGENDA AND ATTACKS

Hudson Institute Right-Wing Agenda
Abner Mason, a member of President Bush’s AIDS advisory panel
AIDS ACTION JUMPS INTO BED WITH BUSH AND THE AIDS-PHOBIC REPUBLICANS

Hudson Institute Right-Wing Agenda

As many of you know, there have been a series of attacks on MSF and WHO around the provision of generic antiretrovirals over the past few months. While these claims are factually wrong and baseless and can be challenged on the weaknesses of their arguments alone, it is interesting to look into the motivation of the Hudson Institute [website] and other institutions leading these attacks. Here is a list of the Hudson Institute's key funders, which includes some of the most extreme right-wing foundations in the United States and host of enormous multinational corporations including the mega-pharmaceutical companies Novartis and Lilly. It is clear that none of the Hudson Institute's funders have any significant history in philantrophy around public health issues. What these foundations and companies do support is the advancement of American business' agenda on a number of fronts, from tax and trade policy, and the American right wing's agenda to dismantle public health and social welfare programs such as Medicaid and Medicare in the US.

So, next time you read an op-ed from someone associated with the Hudson Institute, remember who pays their bills. It's a bit like reading an op-ed talking about the health benefits of cigarettes from an "institute" that's funded by the tobacco companies, or an op-ed on the benefits of industrial pesticides by a "think tank" that's funded by oh, say, Monsanto or American Cyanamid. So, yes, we have issues to deal with in rolling out therapy and in fighting AIDS, but no one should be fooled into thinking that the Hudson Institute or any similar organization cares one iota about people with AIDS or our communities.

The Hudson Institute and its ilk are more dangerous than HIV itself.

              
 -- Gregg Gonsalves


Funding for the Hudson Institute

Between 1987 and 2001, the Institute received $12,041,203 in 183 separate grants from only -- foundations:    
 [source]

* Castle Rock Foundation
* Earhart Foundation
* JM Foundation
* Koch Family Foundations (David H. Koch Foundation)
* John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.
* Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
* Scaife Foundations (Scaife Family, Sarah Mellon Scaife, Carthage)
* Smith Richardson Foundation

The Hudson Institute's IRS Form 990 for the financial year ending on September 30, 2001 showed total income of $7,818,439, most of which came in large grants. Other known funders include:

* Ag Processing Inc
* American Cyanamid
* Archer Daniels Midland
* Cargill
* Ciba-Geigy
* ConAgra Foods
* DowElanco
* DuPont
* Exxon Mobil
* HJ Heinz
* Lilly Endowment
* McDonalds
* Monsanto
* National Agricultural Chemical Association
* Novartis
* Proctor & Gamble
* Sunkist Growers
* United Agri Products

 

Related Issue:

De-listing of generic HIV drugs fuels criticism of WHO
Proponents say drugs’ removal reveals ‘scrutiny’ of health organization

Abner Mason, a member of President Bush’s AIDS advisory panel, said the recommendation that only drugs approved by the FDA should be purchased with U.S. funds was validated by a string of generic HIV drugs being removed from the World Health Organization’s list of approved medicines.
By RYAN LEE, The Southern Voice and The Houston Voice

Friday, December 10, 2004

The World Health Organization’s process for approving generic HIV drugs for use in developing countries is under intense criticism from a gay member of the Bush Administration, after 18 already-approved drugs were removed from the WHO prequalified list since May over inadequate bioequivalence data.

Abner Mason, a gay Republican member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, said the removal of those drugs from the WHO list of approved medicines validates a resolution passed by PACHA in March. The measure stipulated that generic drugs purchased with U.S. tax dollars must be approved by the Food & Drug Administration or meet a “standard of comparable scientific rigor.”

The resolution, which was drafted by Mason and approved unanimously by the 35-member advisory council, was intended to ensure that drugs purchased by the U.S. for use in other countries meet the same safety standards as drugs used by Americans, Mason said.

“What [the removal of the drugs] says is that we were certainly right to be cautious,” Mason said. It was “a terrible failure of oversight” by WHO to allow the drugs to be approved and used by patients in the first place, he said.

But some AIDS activists, who continue to discount Mason as “a lapdog of the pharmaceutical industry,” say the 18 drugs were de-listed because of “paperwork” glitches involving contractors who were hired to conduct bioequivalence tests to verify the data generic drug manufacturers presented to WHO.

The decision to remove the drugs from the approved medicines list actually highlights the vigilance and reliability of the WHO approval process, said Paul Davis, domestic policy director for Health GAP, an AIDS advocacy group that focuses on increasing global access to life-saving medicines.

“The drugs that were de-listed have not been shown to be of substandard quality [compared to their brand-name counterparts],” Davis said. “Even though the drugs actually work, WHO is stringent enough to de-list these products, so it sounds like evidence the process is working.”

‘Short-term pain’

The first two drugs that were yanked off the WHO list in May — generic versions of AZT and 3TC, both manufactured by India-based Cipla Ltd. — were reinstated Nov. 30 after new tests and inspections revealed that the generic drugs had the same bioequivalence as their brand-name versions, said Lembit Rago, WHO coordinator of Quality, Safety & Efficacy of Medicines.

Bioequivalence trials use healthy patients to find out if the concentration of a generic drug in the blood of a patient is equivalent to that of the original product, said Rago, who added that WHO dealt with the de-listing controversy in an “extremely transparent way.”

“This has been short-term pain with much more long-term gain because this is quite a rigorous process we are using now in terms of assessing bioequivalence,” Rago said during a telephone interview from his Switzerland office last week.

When announcing the de-listing of the generic HIV medications, the WHO said that “in principle” patients should cease using the de-listed medications, but added that “the risk of withholding treatment is higher than that of providing medicines whose bioequivalence is not proven, but which have demonstrated quality and safety.”

String of drugs de-listed

Established in 2001, the WHO Prequalification Project created a list of vital HIV medications for use in developing countries that met WHO safety standards.

AIDS activists credit the prequalification process with expediting the delivery of life-saving drugs to those most in need, and helping drive the cost of HIV medications down by giving generic drugs the WHO stamp of approval.

“Certainly thousands of people would have died had [the WHO] not made these drugs available,” said Rachel Cohen, U.S. director of Doctors Without Borders’ Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.

A drug is added to the WHO prequalified list after the agency inspects the sites where the it is manufactured and evaluates the drug’s quality based on data provided to WHO by pharmaceutical companies.

Companies are also required to submit data from independent contractors verifying their bioequivalence results. Prior to May 2004, WHO reviewed the data from these contractors, but did not inspect the sites at which the trials were conducted, according to WHO’s Rago.

Less than 10 percent of European countries used to require inspections of the contractors conducting bioequivalence studies, which is why WHO did not originally make these inspections a requirement for a drug to a listed as an approved medicine, Rago said.

But on May 1, a directive from the European Commission went into effect requiring countries to carry out such inspections, which WHO began doing immediately.

On May 27, WHO removed the two Cipla drugs from its list of approved medicines after inspections of contractors’ labs revealed “serious discrepancies between the original results compiled by the [contractors] and the results presented to WHO by the manufacturers.”

Since the WHO could not accept the contractors’ data to verify the drugs’ bioequivalence, the drugs no longer met prequalification requirements and had to be de-listed, Rago said.

Two months later, on Aug. 4, the WHO removed three generic HIV drugs manufactured by India-based Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., for the same reason.
On Nov. 9, Ranbaxy voluntarily withdrew all seven of its remaining antiretroviral drugs from the WHO list so that it could review and resubmit its data on the drugs’ bioequivalence.

India-based Hetero Drugs Ltd., also voluntarily withdrew its six antiretrovirals from the WHO list on Nov. 19 so that it could review and resubmit its data.
Inspection of the labs where independent contractors conduct bioequivalence studies is now a standard requirement for a drug to be prequalified by WHO, Rago said.

‘A moral and a money issue’

But critics of WHO said the de-listing of the 18 drugs is indicative of a lack of safeguards in the WHO approval process, and harshly accused the health body of wasting money on unproven medicines and putting the lives of poor people at risk.

“The WHO told the entire world these drugs were prequalified, so the question is why would they be doing studies now on the bioequivalence,” said Carol Adelman, a physician who serves as director of the Center for Science & Public Policy at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank based in Washington D.C.

With U.S. taxpayers being the largest contributor to the Global AIDS Fund, which is used to buy HIV drugs for developing countries, they have a right to know if their money is being misused to purchase ineffective drugs, said Lewis Fein, interim executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Public Interest Watch, a non-partisan taxpayer watchdog group.

“I think there’s serious issues that people with HIV and representatives of health organizations need to ask: If you claim [these drugs] work, prove they work,” Fein said.

Mason, from PACHA, said funding untested drugs is a “moral issue and a money issue” for the U.S.

“Americans would not approve if they knew their tax dollars were being used to buy untested drugs,” Mason said.

But generic drug advocates say that the evidence of these drugs’ effectiveness and safety is the marked improvements in the health of patients in developing countries who take the drugs and suffer few drawbacks.

“There’s not a single case of any problems with these drugs in the field,” said Clint Trout, associate director of federal and international policy at the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Trout, Cohen from Doctors Without Borders, and Health GAP’s Davis all said conservatives were trying manipulate the WHO de-listings to continue an attack on the global availability of cheap generic drugs.

“I think that [the WHO de-listings] certainly created confusion and definitely bears out a need to examine these processes, but to switch to the FDA is not the answer,” Trout said.

But Mason and other WHO critics insisted they are pro-quality, not anti-generic.

“We need to have generic and patented drugs to be a part of the arsenal, but what we can’t sacrifice is safety and effectiveness, and unfortunately, largely because of ideology, people have been willing to sacrifice that,” Mason said. “A lot of other groups need to explain their own rush to get untested drugs to patients.”

Mason faces conflict of interest?

Trout described Mason’s position as being “well paid for,” as AIDS activists continue to charge that Mason’s policy recommendations as a member of PACHA are clouded by the funds his Los Angeles-based AIDS Responsibility Project allegedly receives from brand-name pharmaceutical companies.

But Mason was cleared this summer of an ethics complaint filed by an AIDS activist in May in response to the resolution Mason drafted recommending U.S. tax dollars not be spent on drugs not approved by the FDA or a comparable agency.

AIDS activists charge that FDA approval of generic drugs for use in the developing world is unnecessary because the drugs are already approved by WHO.

The ethics complaint against Mason was sent to PACHA’s then co-chair, Tom Coburn, on May 9, and Coburn forwarded the letter to the Inspector General’s Office of the Department of Health & Human Services, according to HHS spokesperson Bill Pierce.

The Inspector General’s Office found “nothing criminally actionable” in the complaint against Mason and dismissed the complaint.

But after that, PACHA Executive Director Joseph Grogan talked with Mason to let him know “that doesn’t mean there aren’t appearance problems,” Grogan said.

Grogan would not comment on what the “appearance problems” were, or if the investigation had determined who was funding the AIDS Responsibility Project.

According to Mason, the AIDS Responsibility Project, which was founded in 2003, receives much of its funding from the federal government. Donations from pharmaceutical companies total less than 20 percent of the group’s budget, he said.

“Most AIDS organizations get some funding from the private sector, including pharmaceutical companies, and that’s a good thing because the pharmaceutical industry is an important partner in the fight against HIV,” Mason said.

           Ryan Lee can be reached at rlee@sovo.com.

 December 24, 2004    from Doug Ireland

AIDS ACTION JUMPS INTO BED WITH BUSH AND THE AIDS-PHOBIC REPUBLICANS

It's mind-boggling: Marsha Martin, the executive director of AIDS Action--the AIDS community's largest, most visible, and wealthiest Washington lobby, with a multi-million dollar budget--has jumped into bed with the Bush-Rove Republicans with both feet. In a perfectly scandalous act of betrayal of the AIDS community, Martin is one of a small committee sponsoring a pricey celebration of Bush's November victory, and that of the Republicans in Congress. And guess who gets the money from this orgy of felicitations to the GOP? A front group for Big Pharma that crusades against giving cheap, generic AIDS-fighting meds to the world's poorest victims of the AIDS pandemic.

The invitation, on which Martin's name prominently appears as part of a small "host committee", is to an expensive, upcoming January 20 event at Washington's J.W. Marriott on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a few blocks from the White House. The event is billed as a "Salute a Second Term: Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service--an Inaugural Dinner Invitation." And the invitation to this deluxe, black-tie banquet ($125 a plate, with "corporate sponsorships" going for $5000) goes on to say, "You are cordially invited to join in celebrating the Presidential Inauguration and Republican electoral success."

This event, which as a member of the "host committee" Martin is helping to organize, is for the benefit of something called the Aids Responsibility Project (ARP). And just what, you may ask, is the ARP? As the Center for Media and Democracy has carefully documented, ARP is pharmaceutical industry front group--it even boasts of its "partnership" with the Big Pharma lobby, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), as well as with Pfizer and other drug multinationals. ARP's primary function has been to crusade against the manufacture and use of effective but generic AIDS-fighting drugs produced by Third World companies like India's Cipla (whose tripartite AIDS-fighting "cocktail" costs 20 times less than the U.S.-manufactured version). ARP wants thus to insure that only the infinitely more expensive AIDS meds manufactured by Big Pharma companies are used to prolong the lives of the HIV-infected.

As a result, Bush administration policies allow U.S. monies for Bush's phony Global AIDS Initiative to be used only for buying Big Pharma drugs--a task made even easier when Bush appointed to head his AIDS initiative someone with no experience with AIDS and none with diseases in developing countries: Randall L. Tobias, the former chairman of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co. Tobias was chosen as Big Pharma's enforcer, to ensure that countries getting U.S. help can't themselves buy generic AIDS drugs at the lowest possible prices — meaning the Bush initiative's money won’t go nearly as far as it should.

ARP's founder and executive director, Abner Mason, is a Republican hack who had no previous AIDS experience when George Bush named him to the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, which Bush has stacked with opponents of science-based sex education and anti-condom crusaders. (Mason had previously worked for two Republican Massachusetts Governors -- Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift -- as chief policy adviser, and served them as the Massachusetts Undersecretary of Transportation, and as Deputy General Manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.)

During the the 15th International AIDS Conference, held in Bangkok in July 2004, Mason's ARP took out a full-page ad in the Bangkok Post which attacked generic AIDS drugs and lied about their effectiveness. This caused Asia Russell, of the AIDS-fighting group Health GAP Coalition, to say, "It is hard to gauge whether the global AIDS treatment community is more shocked to learn that a drug industry stooge is at the highest advisory level of AIDS policy in the United States, or to learn the lengths to which he and his paymasters would go to falsely undermine confidence in proven and effective treatment options."

AIDS Action bills itself as the "national voice" for the some 3200 AIDS service organizations (ASOs) around the country which make up its membership. Thus, it is in their name that Martin, as AIDS Action's executive director, is calling for a "celebration" of an administration that has promulgated regulations demanding that any ASO getting federal money teach that condoms don't work to prevent AIDS; perverted the use of tax-payer dollars intended to help fight AIDS by funneling them into political patronage for the Christian Right disguised as "faith-based initiatives"; gutted the Centers for Disease Control's AIDS work by censoring and banishing any educational material that recognizes sexual practices the Bushies don't like (homosexuality foremost among them); and, at the same time, Martin wishes us to hail a Republican Congress that has virtually flat-lined domestic AIDS spending. Moreover, Martin wants us to shout for joy at the GOP's "electoral success" which just elevated to the Senate a phalanx of anti-condom religious primitives-- like Coburn of Oklahoma (the AIDS community's number one enemy when he was in the House), DeMint of South Carolina, Burr of North Carolina, Vitter of Louisiana, and Martinez of Florida.

When Martin was named AIDS Action's executive director in February 2002, she told the Washington Blade that "We are going to be on AIDS what [the Human Rights Campaign] is on gay rights issues." But Martin exceeded even the Republican-endorsing HRC's collaborationist policies by her constant effusive praise for Bush's sorry record on AIDS. When Bush made an election-year campaign speech on AIDS in Philadelphia this past February--a speech whose phony hypocrisy I exposed for The Nation--Martin gushed to USA Today that Bush had given "unprecedented leadership" on AIDS. And she praised Bush's Global AIDS Initiative as "absolutely exceptional" to CNN, despite its tilt to the religious right's condom opponents. That compulsive ass-kissing doesn't strike most people in the AIDS community as conforming to the frightening reality they know all too well.

But Martin has now allied herself firmly with a Republican president and a Republican Congress who have been hurting the very community she claims to serve, and who have done everything possible to destroy science-based, life-saving HIV prevention methods. Moreover, she has done so as a shill for a banquet to benefit a lobbying group that wants to deny poor people with AIDS around the world cheap meds that can keep them alive.

Sean Strub, the founder of the award-winning magazine POZ (which serves the HIV-positive community) and one of the AIDS community's most respected activists, has just sent a letter to AIDS leaders in which he says of Martin's latest and most stomach-turning sellout, "Why don't we just dissolve AIDS Action, spend the money on cyanide pills, and speed the whole thing up? Martin is responsible for protecting the interests of people with AIDS--and yet she celebrates those who have supported Bush's campaign to control and criminalize us, to deny us treatment and care, to guarantee the further spread of the disease by teaching young people that condoms don't work. She might as well go to work for HRC for all the good she's doing us. We cannot let this stand."

So, Strub tells AIDS leaders in his e-mailed letter, "we must demand that AIDS Action board members, and the executive directors of the agencies that fund AIDS Action, fire Marsha Martin and find an executive director whose celebratory priorities are more appropriate to a constituency struggling to survive, to keep from becoming totally invisible, totally ignored, totally discarded."

Strub is, of course, right-- the kapo Martin should be fired. And there should a firestorm of outrage at her actions from the AIDS community to insure her eviction.




 


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