Newspapers Examine Debate Over Affordable Drugs In Developing Countries

The Los Angeles Times examines how “activists in Washington, and Thailand and other developing countries are accusing the Obama administration of endangering access to affordable drugs to fight AIDS and other epidemic diseases.” According to the newspaper, “[o]rganizations such as Doctors without Borders and OxFam International long accused U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies and the Bush administration of impeding their efforts to make generic drugs available to fight major diseases in poor countries,” and they assert the Obama administration is doing the same.  Administration officials, reject such accusations, saying “that the president remains committed to the international health goals he embraced during the campaign” and “has already initiated some changes” (Hamburger, 8/19).  

“The issue is enmeshed in long-standing, highly technical issues of trade, patent and intellectual property rules, but the end result can have serious consequences for ordinary victims of disease in less developed countries,” the Chicago Tribune writes (Hamburger, 8/19). Though new drugs developed by pharmaceutical companies are typically “protected by patents that bar other companies from producing cheaper copies of the medications … [i]nternational treaties grant governments the right to over-ride these barriers when confronted with health emergencies” – “an exemption that has been a key to obtaining generic copies of crucially needed drugs in Thailand and other countries, the activists say,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“We approach our trading partners recognizing the public health needs in developing and least-developed countries as well as promoting a thriving global environment for innovation. We don’t see these as mutually exclusive,” said Debbie Mesloh, deputy assistant U.S. trade representative (8/19). The Chicago Tribune reports that a meeting took place Wednesday between the advocacy community and Obama administration officials from the State and Commerce Departments and the U.S. trade representative (8/19).