PDA

View Full Version : France Accuses America Over HIV Drugs



Hachiko
13-07-04, 22:47
BANGKOK, Thailand - France accused the United States on Tuesday of pressuring developing countries to give up their right to make cheap generic HIV drugs in return for free-trade agreements — with President Jacques Chirac calling the tactic "tantamount to blackmail."

Yahoo! News (http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20040713/ap_on_he_me/aids_meeting_20)

Arc Light
13-07-04, 23:12
And you know what, if that's in an effort to monopolize the prescription drug industry, it really doesn't surprise me one bit. Nothing but good ol' American greed. Bastards.

Winter
13-07-04, 23:46
This post reminds me of the shirt on the simpsons that homer was wearing. Uncle Sam taking a bite out of the world with a caption that read "Try and stop us!"

Everyone is so negative about the US, but I for one like its rampaging ambition to control the entire world.

Maciamo
14-07-04, 01:50
That is very serious indeed. I am not surprised at the US government protecting its economic interest (i.e. the prospect of selling its own expensive HIV drugs) rather than caring about people first. Countries like Thailand have already more than a million people infected by AIDS/HIV.

=> Winter

This is not a matter of ambition but of moral value and humanism. The US is basically telling those South-East Asian people that they should die because they got AIDS - maybe through prostitution justly because they were poor and trying to help their family.

Winter
14-07-04, 02:03
=> Winter

This is not a matter of ambition but of moral value and humanism. The US is basically telling those South-East Asian people that they should die because they got AIDS - maybe through prostitution justly because they were poor and trying to help their family.

Its still a form of domination and control, ambitious or not. And thats what I admire about this tyrannical nation.

Golgo_13
14-07-04, 02:30
And Iran accuses the U.S. and Israel for all the beheadings in Iraq . . . .

Dan B
14-07-04, 05:28
[Comments made with regard to the Sony Walkman case] Well, maybe it's a bit harsh to call it "stealing", but that's the way you feel if you had a great idea & then somebody else gets all the credit. But, anyway, in this case the patents were registered...
I've quoted some of Bossel's comments about the Sony Walkman case because they may be germaine here.

I don't know the particulars of the HIV drug issue, but I wonder: is this just a question of personal profit? In other words, is this about nothing more than lining the pockets of men of power and influence who are already fabulously wealthy?

If so, is that a logical rationale on which we might base an objection to the U.S. policy? Was it a company (or group of companies) in the U.S. that provided the capital and conducted the research to develop these drugs? If so, should they prefer that other corporations that didn't take the same fiscal risk, and make the same advances, profit from their product? If so, what does that mean for future pharmaceutical development?

Again, I don't know all the facts of this issue and I will readily admit that I'm no defender of everything that the U.S. does nor do I approve of our every policy. Nonetheless, I find it a bit odd that Chirac is criticizing this HIV drug policy while remaining adamant that we stop using, on wines produced in the U.S., labels of "Champagne," "Burgundy," or other names that have historical connection to regions of France.*

It would seem to me that these might both be issues of patents or trademarks, as is the Sony Walkman case: who came up with it first? And who, then, should reap the benefits of that invention/discovery? To those who might suggest that these drugs should be produced with little or no profit to the corporations that developed them, I ask, should a pharmaceutical company do its work for free?

Perhaps...

After all, many lives could be saved or made less painful if these drugs were freely or cheaply produced and distributed to populations with a large concentration of HIV-positive citizens. This might seem the humane and proper choice, at first glance.

But such an argument could be made for all other drugs, too. And not just for drugs, but for a great many things: safety devices in cars, security devices in airports, communications or navigation devices which help emergency personnel arrive quickly at the scene of an accident, . . .

If all of these things were given freely or at greatly reduced cost as a public service, what impetus would there be for a company to take the financial risk in pursuing their development in the first place? Could we assume that the drugs necessary to fight off future disease would be a focus for the research and development efforts of these companies, or any company, if there is no market in which to sell them?

If not, then what is the more humane choice? Were it not for the venture capitalism that led to the success of today's pharmaceutical companies, could we have any realistic hope that these HIV drugs would have been developed by now, when we actually need them?

Once more, I can't claim to know.

Nor do I suggest that I have the knowledge of economics to address these questions, nor even all the salient facts of this particular issue. Perhaps someone here has all the facts and the requisite economic expertise. But, from my layman's point of view, these seem to be legitimate questions in the meantime.

Regards,

Dan

*(One of my close friends is a lawyer with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. She has been involved with this case, about the names of wines and other products, for some years.)

Arch
14-07-04, 14:18
And we believe everything we read ???

Maciamo
14-07-04, 15:42
=> Dan

This issue is not about patent at all. The WTO allows developping countries to produce cheap copies of medecines in case of epidemics such as AIDS.

Have a look at the following BBC articles :

- US Aids chief heckled at summit (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3893419.stm)


On Tuesday - in a veiled attack on the US - France criticised bilateral trade deals that force poor nations to give up rights to make cheaper anti-Aids drugs.

- France raps 'US Aids blackmail'
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3891385.stm)


President Chirac said such deals undermined an international accord that lets poor countries produce such drugs.

In a statement to an Aids conference in Bangkok, he said such policy would be tantamount to "blackmail.

So it's not about patents or who developed what first, but about international solidarity in combatting Aids, and the fact that the World Trade Organization gives the right to poor countries to produce cheaper drugs, but the US want them to give up these rights in exchange for trade benefits with the US. They are trading human lives for "economic benefits". This is completely immoral from the US to abuse its position of power to blackmail poorer countries this way.

Dan B
14-07-04, 18:30
Maciamo,

Thanks for the links! I read both the articles, and looked up two more:

http://www.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/conditions/07/14/aids.conference.reut/index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/14/health/14aids.html?hp

It would seem that you're correct, it's not an issue of patents. The New York Times article is quite long, but worth the read. No friend to the Bush administration, the NY Times is still presenting the entirety of the U.S. HIV/AIDS effort in a rather different light, including the question of drugs.

In a similar vein, it seems possible that Chirac chose the word "blackmail" quite deliberately, even though it's clearly inaccurate ("extortion or coercion by threats especially of public exposure or criminal prosecution [sic][emphasis]"). The point that Chirac would presumably intend to make would be better described by "coercion" ("to compel to an act or choice"), and yet the whole issue frankly doesn't appear to me to be that simple.

This may seem to be little more than quibbling over semantics. But national leaders, like Chirac, and their representatives rarely choose words carelessly in such situations. In this case, "blackmail" carries a more pronounced emotional connotation of malfeasance and naked avarice on the part of the U.S. than would "coercion." Given the recent history of relations between the U.S. and French governments, can we assume that such a connotation was not intended?

Reports by news agencies (BBC, CNN, NY Times, The Economist, or whatever) are likewise poisoned by their bias, and tend to present their news either conciously or unconciously in support of particular political views or agendas. C-SPAN is the least tainted news source that I've found, but they unfortunately don't seem to have any information about the HIV drug issue at this point.

Thus, my answer to Arch ("And we believe everything we read ???") is, "No."

In fact, I believe very little of what I read, regardless of the source. My point is that this issue is probably not quite as black and white as it may seem, even after reading four or five separate reports.

And I honestly don't yet know what to think about it.

Regards,

Dan

(Note: the definitions are from http://www.merriam-webster.com/ )

Golgo_13
14-07-04, 20:26
Thanks Dan.

I don't know all the facts either, but America (including Bill Gates, out of his own pocket) has spent more money on combating AIDS in Africa than France ever has or will.

bossel
15-07-04, 03:20
I wonder if the US program is actually directed against AIDS or if it's just another way Bush found to help his buddies in the industry & to promote his moral views.

From http://www.ffrf.org/fttoday/mar04/?ft=statechurch.txt
"The Bush Administration on Feb. 24 announced its $15 billion, five-year plan to fight AIDS globally will start with $350,000 in grants to religious and humanitarian groups. Bush will give $9 billion to care for orphans and encourage abstinence, fidelity and condom use in "focus" countries, including Botswana, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, as well as Haiti and Guyana.

Critics charge the plan reduces U.S. aid to ongoing Global AIDS Fund programs, will set up parallel, redundant or competing programs, and excludes China, Russia, India and Asia."

I think, 85 million alone will be going to a campaign to promote abstinence. :?


The US not only tries to blackmail (or to lure them with free trade agreements and such) the countries which will receive help but also countries where the cheap drugs are produced (eg. Singapore, Chile, Thailand). If there is no supply of cheap drugs, what can the poor countries do? Buy the expensive US stuff, for which they will get funds from the US.

Regarding the funding of international organisations that fight AIDS, the US share is not really such a big deal:
UNAIDS (http://www.unaids.org/NetTools/Misc/DocInfo.aspx?href=http%3A%2F%2Fgva%2Ddoc%2Dowl%2FW EBcontent%2FDocuments%2Fpub%2FGovernance%2FPCB01%2 FCore%5F1995%2D2003%5Fen%26%2346%3Bxls)
The Global Fund (http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/funds_raised/pledges/)

Dan B
15-07-04, 03:45
Bossel,


Regarding the funding of international organisations that fight AIDS, the US share is not really such a big deal:
UNAIDS (http://www.unaids.org/NetTools/Misc/DocInfo.aspx?href=http%3A%2F%2Fgva%2Ddoc%2Dowl%2FW EBcontent%2FDocuments%2Fpub%2FGovernance%2FPCB01%2 FCore%5F1995%2D2003%5Fen%26%2346%3Bxls)
The Global Fund (http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/funds_raised/pledges/)
Thanks for the links! The data from the two different sources are different, so I presume that they're referring to funds given to different organizations. The U.S. has given over 22% of all funds to date, according to the UN AIDS organization (your first link). The Global Fund reports that the U.S. has given 32.9% of all funds to date (your second link).

I suppose that the definition of "a big deal" could be open to individual interpretation. But the money given by the U.S. doesn't seem to be an insignificant contribution. The global fund also has a footnote which says, "The US contribution cannot exceed 33 percent of all contributions for 2004."

I don't know what that's about, but it may be a restriction that the U.S. government put on our spending. Why would they do that? Again, I don't know, but perhaps it's to encourage other countries to contribute more, since the U.S. has pledged nearly $550,000,000 to the fund for 2004. Yet the U.S. government has nonetheless pledged another $15,000,000,000 over the next 5 years, so I don't know how all of this will actually work out.

Regards,

Dan

Maciamo
15-07-04, 04:44
I don't know all the facts either, but America (including Bill Gates, out of his own pocket) has spent more money on combating AIDS in Africa than France ever has or will.

Of course ! You can't compare a country of 60m inhabitants with one of nearly 300m ! But the EU does spend more than the US for Aids and charities.

Well, actually why not ? According the the UNAIDS stats, the Netherlands has donated exactly 3x more than the US in 2003. The population of the Netherlands is 16 million, less than New York alone !



In a similar vein, it seems possible that Chirac chose the word "blackmail" quite deliberately, even though it's clearly inaccurate ("extortion or coercion by threats especially of public exposure or criminal prosecution [sic][emphasis]"). The point that Chirac would presumably intend to make would be better described by "coercion" ("to compel to an act or choice"), and yet the whole issue frankly doesn't appear to me to be that simple.

This may seem to be little more than quibbling over semantics. But national leaders, like Chirac, and their representatives rarely choose words carelessly in such situations. In this case, "blackmail" carries a more pronounced emotional connotation of malfeasance and naked avarice on the part of the U.S. than would "coercion." Given the recent history of relations between the U.S. and French governments, can we assume that such a connotation was not intended?


Don't forget the translation. The French word for "blackmail" ("chantage") has a wider meaning than in English and can be used in this case.

The BBC's translation of Chirac' words was : <i>such policy <b>would be tantamount to</b> "blackmail"</i>, probably to minimize the word "blackmail" itself due to the translation issue (I doubt Chirac said "tantamount to" as there is no such expression in French).

So, "coercion" or "blackmail" are neither appropriate as it isn't the word used by Chirac, and yes media have the freedom to translate giving the connotation they want, which is certainly dangerous and can create unnecessary tensions. But it is undeniable that what the US is doing to those developping country is outright immoral.

bossel
15-07-04, 05:00
The data from the two different sources are different, so I presume that they're referring to funds given to different organizations. The U.S. has given over 22% of all funds to date, according to the UN AIDS organization (your first link). The Global Fund reports that the U.S. has given 32.9% of all funds to date (your second link).

I suppose that the definition of "a big deal" could be open to individual interpretation. But the money given by the U.S. doesn't seem to be an insignificant contribution.
Not insignificant, but no big deal, either. UNAIDS has received almost the same amount of money from the (little) Netherlands as from the US.
The Global Fund has received roughly 1.5 times as much from the EU (all countries) than from the US. Everything is relative.

Maciamo
15-07-04, 05:06
The data from the two different sources are different, so I presume that they're referring to funds given to different organizations. The U.S. has given over 22% of all funds to date, according to the UN AIDS organization (your first link). The Global Fund reports that the U.S. has given 32.9% of all funds to date (your second link).

Maybe does it depend on what years were counted (one year can make such difference).



I suppose that the definition of "a big deal" could be open to individual interpretation. But the money given by the U.S. doesn't seem to be an insignificant contribution. The global fund also has a footnote which says, "The US contribution cannot exceed 33 percent of all contributions for 2004."

I have calculated the share of Western Europe based on the UNAIDS stats, and they have donated about 390,000,000 out of 584,493,420, which means 66%. How comes Western Eurrope contributes in more than twice the share of the US when their GDP is roughly equal ?

It's also interesting to see that a country like Luxembourg (pop. 0,4m) donates 50% than Russia (pop. 130m) or 3x more than China (pop. 1300m).

The share of Northern European country is completely disproportionate to their population. The Benelux and Scandinavia (total 6 countries, 44 million inhab.) have contributed to $277,000,000 or 47% of the world's total. These 6 small countries representing only 15% of the US population have donated over 2x more than the US. Is that normal ? Can you realy say that Americans are doing a lot to fight Aids ?

bossel
16-07-04, 03:59
Just today, an interesting article in New Scientist (http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996135).

Quote:
"Experts were especially critical of the US Bush administration’s emphasis on abstinence from sex before marriage as a mainstay of prevention compared with access to condoms. The report urges that reproductive health programmes should promote the complete “ABCs” of prevention – not just part of it. ABC relates to Abstinence, Be faithful, use a Condom."

Dan B
21-07-04, 16:56
Maciamo and Bossel,

Thanks for the replies!

That's very interesting. But I didn't claim that the U.S. gave more money per capita (nor when compared to GDP) than did France or any other particular nation. I merely pointed out that a rather large chunk (about 1/4 to 1/3) of the money going to fight HIV/AIDS is coming from the U.S., with some $15 billion more to come. Clearly, as you pointed out, the French are likewise providing a great deal of money to the effort. And if the U.S. proceeds to give this $15 billion to fight HIV, will France follow suit and donate an appropriately large sum?

I don't know, nor would it bother me either way. Why?

Well, aside from the fact that France is a sovereign nation who can do as she pleases, I don't think that such a simple, linear comparsion paints an accurate picture. For example, while we know the French and U.S. GDPs, what are their respective gross national/federal tax receipts? Why would this be important? Because, as I understand it, the funds in question are coming from the tax coffers of both governments (except for some private donors, like Bill Gates, etc.). Thus, there is no reason to assume that GDP or per capita comparisons are sufficient if we want to accurately compare the amounts of money donated to fight HIV. We should perhaps first get some idea of what percentage of the available tax monies were donated.

Below are comparisons of French and U.S. tax rates. I know there must be a more recent table of the U.S. tax rates, but I don't think the rates have changed radically since 2001.

French tax rates in Euros, 2004, to the nearest .1% (http://www.frenchentree.com/fe-home/DisplayArticle.asp?ID=727)
0% tax, 0 - 4,262
06.8% tax, 4,263 - 8,382 ($0 to ~$5,300)
19.1% tax, 8,383 - 14,753 (~$5,300 - $18,000)
28.3% tax, 14,754 - 23,888 (~$18,000 - $48,000)
37.4% tax, 23,889 - 38,868 (~$30,000 - $48,000)
42.6% tax, 38,869 - 47,932 (~$48,000 - $60,000)
48.1% tax, 47,932+ (~$60,000+)

(I used this (http://www.x-rates.com/calculator.html) to calculate the Euro/Dollar comparisons.)

U.S. tax rates (Single), 2001 (World Almanac & Book of Facts, 2002, World Almanac Books)
0% tax, $0 - $7,449
15.1% tax, $7,450 - $27,050
27.5% tax, $27,051 - $65,550
30.5% tax, $65,551 - $136,750
35.5% tax, $136,751 - $297,350
39.1% tax, $297,350+

So, though the U.S. has a larger population and a greater GDP, the tables above suggest that the proportion of this money going to the U.S. government may be considerably smaller than that going to the French government. So, can we now conclude that there is parity between the U.S. and French donations to HIV, or that the U.S. is providing more money than France? Of course not! This still paints a very simplistic picture. We would also need a way to tie this in with each nation's GDP, corporate tax rates, national budgets (perhaps the simplest comparison, but I couldn't find the information I was looking for), the focus of national policies on other programs or interests (defense, health care, etc.), and so on.

Even with all of that, the comparisons--and any conclusions drawn from them--would still be of dubious value, just as are so many other comparisons made between different countries or cultures. This illustrates the danger of trying to use generalized or limited statistics to draw comparisons, akin to calculating the average U.S. income while including fantastically wealthy people like Bill Gates in the equation. Any conclusions drawn are grossly distorted by the presence of outliers like Gates.

But, frankly, these comparisons don't really interest me, in any case.

The tit-for-tat discussion that has quickly evolved here was never my point and it could doubtless continue without end. Instead, I mean to point out that we don't know all of the facts of this issue, and that the facts we do "know" are in no small part tainted by the bias of politicians, pundits, and reporters, not to mention the bias we each bring to the table.

It may be that you are content to arrive at a conclusion about the nature of the U.S. policy about the use of generic HIV drugs, which is your perogative. But I am not, and I don't think that we're in possession of enough information to honestly do so. As some of the comments in this thread suggest, quick conclusions serve little purpose but to promote confirmation bias and the animus between otherwise well-intentioned people.

Likewise, I am not content to make conclusions about Chirac or the French government. Nonetheless, based on the New York Times article I posted above and the Washington Post article below, I have some doubt that the U.S. is doing anything which could be considered coercive or "outright immoral," nor that the U.S. government is necessarily pandering to the U.S. pharmaceutical industry (though that's certainly a distinct possibility that I'm unwilling to rule out).

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A60578-2004Jul18.html


The activists' second complaint about the U.S. AIDS program is that it is hostile to generic medicines. Until recently, this was true: Perhaps because of its ties to the big pharmaceutical companies that sell patented drugs, the administration has been scandalously slow to allow cheaper generic copies to be used in its programs. But in May the Bush team finally announced that generics were okay, subject only to a six-week review by the Food and Drug Administration to determine safety and efficacy.

The activists do not believe the FDA's change is for real, and their suspicions are reinforced by Cipla, a leading Indian producer of generic AIDS drugs. Cipla's charming joint managing director, Amar Lulla, explains to anyone who calls that he would love to get his drugs approved for distribution in U.S.-financed programs in the poor world but that the Bush administration's fine print is cluttered with obstacles.

On close inspection, however, these obstacles aren't serious. For example, Cipla's best known AIDS medicine is called Triomune; it combines three separate antiviral drugs in one pill, simplifying treatment. Lulla says the FDA has not explained whether he needs to demonstrate the safety of combining the drugs this way, in which case Cipla would have to conduct prohibitively expensive clinical trials. But if you go to www.fda.gov/oc/initiatives/hiv/hivguidance.html, you'll find the explanation that Lulla says he's waiting for. Attachment B lists three-drug cocktails that the FDA already accepts as safe, among them one combining stavudine, lamivudine and nevirapine, the three constituents of Cipla's Triomune.

Cipla also says it worries that if it files an FDA application, it may be sued by U.S. patent holders. But the FDA's rules allow Cipla to file a statement certifying that its pills are intended for sale outside the United States, a maneuver that would almost certainly eliminate the risk of being sued for U.S. patent infringement.

The article above is from a different point of view than has been presented here thus far; other parts of the article also discuss the abstinence/condoms issue. Yet it is still clearly biased (considerably more biased than the article in the NY Times, I might add) and seems to urge the reader towards a given conclusion, like so much of our news.

I can only speak for myself, but I will choose to refrain from arriving at such directed conclusions without attempting to first learn about and understand the details of such a complex issue.

Regards,

Dan