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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/14/16

Is This The Return Of U.S. "Gunboat Diplomacy" Serving Corporations?

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Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future

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Colombia is allowing local production of a generic form of a cancer drug that is ultra-expensive because of a government-granted monopoly handed to a giant, multinational pharmaceutical corporation. The U.S. government is stepping in on the corporation's side with a modern form of "gunboat diplomacy" -- even though the giant corporation isn't even "American."

In November 2014, a group of public health advocacy organizations called on the Colombian government to declare that the public interest warrants that the country can produce a generic version of the ultra-expensive cancer drug Gleevec, produced by the "Swiss" giant Novartis. According to a March, 2015 report in Intellectual Property Watch, "Colombia Asked To Declare Excessive Price For Cancer Drug Contrary To Public Interest, Grounds For Compulsory License":

"The evidence supporting a declaration of public interest is self-evident: imatinib [the generic name for Gleevec] is unquestionably effective as a leukemia drug, and was placed on the WHO's Essential Medicines List in 2015. It is also unquestionably expensive for Colombia, costing $15,161 U.S.D per patient per year -- nearly double the country's GNI per capita of $7,970 U.S.D (Atlas Method) in 2014 -- for a drug that is taken as a chronic treatment, not as a cure."

The World Health Organization has declared Gleevec as an "essential drug." A year's supply of Gleevec costs twice the national income per capita. The extraordinarily high monopoly pricing of this drug creates a health emergency in Colombia. The World Trade Organization rules allow countries to do this in the case of health emergencies.

This year the Colombian government agreed to do this, issuing a "compulsory license" enabling local production of a generic form of the drug.

Colombia Threatened

There are indications that right after Colombia enabled local production of a generic version of Gleevec, the U.S. government stepped in to protect pharmaceutical industry profits by threatening to withdraw funding for a peace initiative between the Colombian government and the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and threatening the country's involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Zach Carter writes at The Huffington Post about what happened, in "Colombia Fears U.S. May Reject Peace Plan To Protect Pharma Profits"...

"The Colombian Embassy is concerned that lowering the price of a major cancer drug may jeopardize American funding for peace talks in the South American nation, according to a leaked embassy memo.

"In February, President Barack Obama committed $450 million to aid peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a Marxist rebel group known as FARC. The money would help the Colombian government fight the illegal drug trade and retrain FARC members.

"But in an April 27 memo, Colombian diplomat Andres Florez said he was worried the U.S. would withhold peace funding if the Colombian government lowered prices on the drug Gleevec, also sold as Glivec. The memo was first posted by the think tank Knowledge Ecology International."

The key phrase in the leaked memo:

"Given the direct link that exists between a significant group of members of Congress and the pharmaceutical industry in the United States, the case of GLIVEC is susceptible to escalate to the point that it could impair the approval of the financing of the new initiative 'Paz Colombia' as well as become an issue in the framework of the free-trade treaty."

That was a translation from Spanish to English. Here is a translation of the translation: The "direct link" referred to here is millions of dollars to key members of Congress from the pharmaceutical industry and pharmaceutical lobbying jobs for some of their families. The "Paz Colombia" is the peace process with FARC. The "framework of the free-trade treaty" is the threat about TPP participation.

Friday's Politico Morning Trade also reports on this, with a second letter the day after the one above, which said,

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Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational (more...)

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