Update: July 22

THIS Tuesday (July 23rd), a key Senate Appropriations Subcommittee will determine funding levels for crucial global AIDS programs,  and the Global Fund. One Senate Democrat and one Senate Republican will play the leading role in deciding whether the the fight against global AIDS is fully funded at the levels we need in the coming year: at least $4.58 billion for PEPFAR and $1.65 billion for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. 

YOU CAN HELP! 

1. Start tweeting ASAP so that Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Graham know the public has their back if they do the right thing. Tweet, tweet and retweet before tomorrow's 10am committee hearing, and continue on through Tuesday! Please also email out to your friends and loved ones, and share with your Facebook friends!

.@SenatorLeahy @GrahamBlog Pls vots 2 #endAIDS Tues: Lead the fight for $4.58b 4 @PEPFAR + $1.65b 4 GlobalFund! http://ow.ly/ndeXS

2. Bonus points if you make phone calls!


VT Senator Patrick Leahy: (202) 224-4242

SC Senator Lindsey Graham: (202) 224-5972

Call-In Script

First, ask to speak to the person in the office who works on "foreign operations appropriations and global healthissues". Record the name of the person you speak with, and jot down their answer. 

"My name is __________ and I am calling from (      town, state            ) and am a member of   ( organization, school chapter, church or service provider). As you've seen previously, science has shown us that increasing the number of people on HIV treatment will turn the corner and bring an end to the global AIDS epidemic, stop HIV infections and give a normal productive life to people already living with the virus. We need you to lead the effort to finish the bipartisan work started by President Bush and continued by President Obama by fully funding PEPFAR and the Global Fund during the upcoming Senate Foreign Operations Appropriation votes. Will you propose and/or vote for $4.58 Billion for PEPFAR and $1.65 Billion for the Global Fund in committee? Creating an AIDS-free generation is a big priority for the US around the world, and for all of us here in my home town."

After you call, email us to let us know! Email this and any questions or comments to Paul Davis at pdavis@healthgap.org 


Organizational Sign-on Letter in Support of Brazilian Patent Law Reform

Activists and progressive health forces in Brazil have succeeded in catalyzing a proposal to reform Brazilian patent law to take advantage of key TRIPS flexibilities in order to increase access to affordable medicines.  In August 2013, Brazil will issue a major report and proposed legislative reforms that will:  eliminate patent term extensions and data exclusivity, restrict patents on new forms and new uses and tighten the the inventive step requirement (following the India example), adopt government use procedures, and clarify the role that ANVISA, its drug regulatory agency, plays in the patent examination system.  We hope to gain sign-ons from hundreds of civil society/activist organizations.  Please supply the following information and return to me b.baker@neu.edu.

  • Name of your organization
  • Country
  • Contact person's email 

This is a very important moment where Brazil can rectify past shortcomings in its patent law and enhance Brazil's ability to meet patients' human right to health.  The proposed patent reform demonstrates growing momentum in low- and middle-income countries to maximize use of TRIPS-compliant flexibilities to help ensure access to medicines for all. We believe that the support of global civil society organizations is useful both internally to help support adoption in Brazil and externally to counteract what is certain to be strong negative reaction from the US and EU and Big Pharma.


Action Alert: Call Your Senators to Save HIV/AIDS Funding

WE NEED YOUR HELP TO PROTECT AND EXPAND FUNDING FOR HIV/AIDS, TB AND MALARIA! 

In the next week, both the U.S. House of Congress and the Senate will be taking action on the section of the budget that allocates money to fight global AIDS, TB and Malaria. The subcommittees for State and Foreign Operations will be voting on their specific appropriations bill, before it moves up to a vote in the full House and Senate. The House is scheduled to vote on THIS FRIDAY, JULY 19TH, while the Senate is likely to vote next week, as early as TUESDAY, JULY 23RDThe full committee mark-up will take place on July 25th

In the next few days, we need all hands on deck to remind the appropriators on the State and Foreign Operations Subcommitees that funding for HIV/AIDS and global health is crucial to saving lives across the world. 

CALL THE CONGRESS MEMBERS AND SENATORS ON THE STATE AND FOREIGN OPERATIONS SUBCOMITEES TODAY! 

Do you live in the district of any of the legislators below? GLOBAL HEALTH JUSTICE GOLD STAR AWARD If you can make phone calls, AND set up an in-person meeting with the staff of your legislator either in district or in DC. 

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CALL IN SCRIPT:

First, ask to speak to the person in the office who works on "foreign operations appropriations and global health issues". Record the name of the person you speak with, and jot down their answer. 

"My name is __________ and I am calling from (      town, state            ) and am a member of    (your organization, school chapter, church or service provider group). As you've seen previously, science has shown us that increasing the number of people on HIV treatment will turn the corner and bring an end to the global AIDS epidemic, stop HIV infections and give a normal productive life to people already living with the virus. We need you to stand up and lead the effort to finish the bipartisan work started by President Bush and continued by President Obama, by fully funding PEPFAR and the Global Fund during the upcoming      [House/Senate]      Foreign Operations Appropriation votes. Will you propose or at least vote for $4.58 Billion for PEPFAR and $1.65 Billion for the Global Fund in committee? Will you and   [the member of congress]    meet with us during the August recess to discuss this further? Creating an AIDS-free generation is a big priority for the US around the world, and for us here back home."

After you call, email us to let us know! Email this or any questions or comments to Paul Davis at pdavis@healthgap.org

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Below is a list of important legislators. These are the most important targets to call right now.  Call Congressional Representatives today FIRST, then move on to the Senators! The most important targets are in bold.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: 
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee Members to Call 
Republicans

• Kay Granger, Texas, Chairwoman: TOP PRIORITY - (202) 225-5071 | (817( 338-0909 

• Frank Wolf, Virginia - (202) 225-5136 | (703) 709-5800

• Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida (202) 225-4211 | (305) 470-8555

• Charles Dent, Pennsylvania - (202) 225-6411 | (610) 770-3490 

• Ander Crenshaw, Florida - (202) 225-2501 | (904) 598-0481

• Jack Kingston, Georgia-  (202) 225-5831 | (912) 352-0101

• Kevin Yoder, Kansas - (202) 225-2865 | (913) 621 0832

Democrats

• Nita Lowey, New York, Ranking Member: TOP PRIORITY (202) 225-6506 | (914) 428-1707

• Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida - (202) 225-7931 | (954) 437-3936

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SENATE: 

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee Members to Call 

Democrats

• Senator Patrick Leahy (Chairman) (VT): TOP PRIORITY - (202) 224-4242 | (802) 863-2525 

• Senator Tom Harkin (IA) - (202) 224-3254 | (515) 284-4574

• Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD): priority (chair of the overall Appropriations Committee) - (202) 224-4654 |(410) 962-4510

• Senator Dick Durbin (IL) - (202) 224-2152 | (312) 353- 4952 

• Senator Mary Landrieu (LA) - (202) 224-5824 | (337) 436-6650 

• Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH) -  (202) 224-2841 | (603) 647-7500

• Senator Mark Begich (AK) - (202) 224-3004 | (907) 271-5915

• Senator Chris Coons (DE) - (202) 224-5042 | (302) 573-6345 

Republicans

• Senator Lindsey Graham (Ranking) (SC): TOP PRIORITY   (202) 224-5972 | (864) 250-1417 

• Senator Mark Kirk (IL): (202) 224-2854

 


Congressional Letter Challenging Indian IP Policy Falsely Condemns Protectionism While Trouble-Shooting for Big Pharma

by Professor Brook K. Baker, Health GAP Senior Policy Advisor

On June 18, 2013, 170 Members of Congress wrote to President Obama complaining about Indian trade policy and more particularly India's intellectual property "climate."  Under the umbrella of claiming that policies of the Government of India favor domestic producers over U.S. Exporters – in other words, that India is protectionist – the Members of Congress claimed that "the intellectual property (IP) climate has become increasingly challenging in India."

In particular, the letter complained about IP issues affecting pharmaceuticals:  "For example, last year several biopharmaceutical companies inappropriately had their patents revoked or their appeals denied by the India courts to market a variety of life-saving drugs in India.  Additionally, the Indian Government issued its first compulsory license (CL) on a stage three liver and kidney cancer drug.  It has been reported that additional drugs may be subject to CLs imminently and that the decisions related to these CLs are being improperly driven by an interest in growing the pharmaceutical market in India.  These actions by the Indian Government greatly concern us because innovation and the protection of intellectual property are significant driving engines of the U.S. economy."

Under the WTO TRIPS Agreement, India has every right to define standards of patentability so long as they satisfy minimum standards of patentability set forth in TRIPS, namely novelty, inventive step, and industrial activity.  India has elected to define and apply standards of patentability rigorously.  When this rigorous standard is applied in India, it prohibits patents on secondary patents involving new uses of existing medicines or minor modifications of existing medicines/active ingredients that do not significantly enhance therapeutic efficacy.  Although Members of Congress and Big Pharma executives, including those from Novartis and Pfizer, condemn an Indian decision denying a patent on secondary form of the anti-cancer medicine Glivec, they neglect to acknowledge that both Novartis and Pfizer have received hundreds of patents on medicines in India in the past 8 years and that it is only the frivolous or unworthy patents that are being screened out.  Moreover, rather than serving domestic producers, the Novartis decision in India would allow imports of Glivec from any of the other 160 countries in the world that also do not presently have patents on Glivec.

The U.S. is notorious with respect to the ease by which pharmaceutical companies extend their patent monopolies on medicines by seeking secondary or "evergreening" patents, what is euphemistically called patent lifestyle management in polite Pharma circles.  These kinds of patents can add decades to the 20-year period of initial patent exclusivity.  Yet even in the United States, the Supreme Court, academics, and other policy makers are beginning to question the wisdom of weak U.S. standards for patents and the impact of lax patent standards both on affordability and the ecology of innovation.  Thus, the Supreme Court has recently tightened standards on inventive step, prohibited patenting of naturally occurring genes, and questioned the competitive impact of sweetheart deals that delay generic entry.  Instead of trouble-shooting for Big Pharma, Congress should turn its attention to revising standards of patentability upward in the U.S., reducing patent thickets, and restricting patent trolls.  Maybe then we could get some of our bloated healthcare costs under control and reduce the federal deficit and the pharmaceutical-tax on productivity.

Likewise, the WTO TRIPS Agreement allows India and any other country to issue compulsory licenses on any grounds they want to as long as certain procedural safeguards are followed.  Using fully lawful compulsory licensing procedures, India did issue a compulsory license on an overpriced Bayer cancer medicine, citing three justifications in a 60-plus page decision:  excessive pricing, failure to supply the market, and refusal to produce locally.  As a result of this license, the cost of the cancer medicine has now fallen more than 97%, showing the excess mark-up that Bayer imposes on patients.  Rather than acting arbitrarily, the legal system in India allows a court review of the compulsory license decision, which Bayer is now pursuing.  Moreover, instead of acting protectionist in a trade sense, India is protecting public health, public resources, and common sense in the face of monopoly pricing.

Although Members of Congress and Big Pharma companies are complaining about the issuance of compulsory licenses, the U.S. has perhaps the easiest system in the world for issuing government use licenses (by any government official or federal contractor) and has used these rights on hundreds of occasions.  Although there are not routine rights for compulsory licenses for all sectors of the economy on pharmaceuticals, there are CL provisions with respect to other technologies, and the U.S. maintains rights to march-in and grant licenses with respect to IP generated with federal resources.  

It is deeply ironic when the world's biggest wolf cries wolf.  Any objective examination of U.S. trade policy, including that represented in the current negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, would conclude that the U.S. is relentless in its pursuit of heightened standards of patentability, data protection, and enforcement in order to protect the interests of Big Pharma and other IP-intensive domestic industries.  Over 600 industry representative sit on advisory committees to the U.S. Trade Representative having privileged access to otherwise secret trade agreement proposals.  It's an affront to democracy that the first Member of Congress gained access to the text of just three sections of the proposed TPPA just this past week, while industry reps have been able to lobby U.S. trade negotiators constantly for three years to advance their monopoly interests.  It's an insult to our collective intelligence when Members of Congress misleadingly condemn alleged "protectionism" in India while tolerating monopoly encroachment globally and doing so to protect "jobs and investments" in the United States.

We could only wish that more countries, including our own, would emulated India's IP policies.  Maybe then we would have more affordable and equitable access to global public goods like medicines, maybe then Medicare would not be bankrupted, and maybe then the fruits of prosperity would not be siphoned off to IP rent-seekers who deliver so little in terms of innovation despite massive monopoly-based profits both here and abroad.

| download the Congressional letter 


LDC and Civil Society Coalition Win a Partial Victory in Extending LDCs Freedom from Oppressive Intellectual Property Rights

LDCs stood together and won a partial victory at the World Trade Organization delaying the time within which they must become fully compliant with global minimums for protecting patents, copyrights, trademarks, and other forms of intellectual property.  Although they committed to deliberate carefully, they won back policy space to reduce existing levels of intellectual property protection if appropriate in order to develop a viable technological base and to overcome severe and lingering capacity constraints.  This same policy space will permit them to access more affordable medicines and medical technologies, educational resources, agricultural inputs, and green and climate control technologies.

Europe and the US, home of powerful intellectual property industries including pharmaceuticals, publishing, movie and recording, information technology and other, tried to force LDCs, the poorest countries in the world, to open their weak economies to monopoly protections for IP-based multinational corporations.  At first the US and EU wanted to split up the LDCs coalition and speed up implementation of select IPRs, but LDCs held firm in demanding what they are fully entitled to under international law - an unconditional extension of the time period within which to become compliant with the WTO TRIPS Agreement until any particular country is no longer an LDC with no guarantee that they would maintain even existing levels of IP if it were not in their interest to do so.

At the same time that the US and EU were exerting massive backroom pressure on LDCs, often with the assistance of the TRIPS Council Chair, civil society organizations, health activists, academics, international organizations, and others rallied to support the LDCs.  They exposed the intellectual dishonesty of the big powers' position and demonstrated global solidarity in support of poor people in the world's poorest countries.

In the end, the US and EU did enforce some compromises, including a duration of this extension for only 8 years (though LDCs will be entitled to further extensions in the future) and LDCs expressed their unenforceable "determination to preserve and continue progress towards implementation of the TRIPS Agreement."  But 8 years is a victory in light of the US endgame insistence on only a 5 year extension, and the expression of "determination" is modified by a separate sentence entitling LDCs to make "full use of the flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement to address their needs including to create a sound and viable technological base and to overcome their capacity constraints," which in this case would include the flexibility under Article 66.1 to rollback existing levels of TRIPS compliance.

Countries now have to use the policy space they have fought for and won.  Many LDCs still need to enact IP reforms that allows unrestricted access to essential public goods.  They can be selected, but they shouldn't simply maintain the colonial IP systems that they inherited, nor should the follow the siren song of WIPO and other IP fundamentalistic who claim that IP is good for you - just close your eyes and swallow.  To the contrary, virtually all the theoretical and empirical evidence on this questions finds that IP impedes rather than helps the development project in low income countries.

In addition, LDCs and their allies will have to begin early to win an even better extension of the pharmaceutical product transition period which will expire in 2016.  Here too the LDC should insist on an unconditional extension (like the one they won in 2002) and it should last as long as a WTO member is an LDC.  The fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and the simultaneous fights against neglected tropical diseases and non-communicable diseases depends on affordable access to generic medicines of assured quality.


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