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US Wrecks Cheap Drugs Deal Larry Elliott and Charlotte Denny The Guardian UK 
Saturday December 21, 2002 

Cheney's intervention blocks pact to help poor countries after pharmaceutical firms lobby 
White House.
Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, last night blocked a global  
deal to provide cheap drugs to poor countries, following intense  
lobbying of the White House by America's pharmaceutical giants. 
Faced with furious opposition from all the other 140 members of  
the World Trade Organization, the US refused to relax global  
patent laws which keep the price of drugs beyond reach of most  
developing countries. 

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Is it any wonder that 43 million and rising in the US cannot
afford health care insurance and the government doesn't give a damn]

Talks at the WTO's Geneva headquarters collapsed last night after  
the White House ruled out a deal which would have permitted a  
full range of life-saving drugs to be imported into Africa, Asia  
and Latin America at cut-price costs. 
"The United States has announced it cannot join the consensus,"  
the Brazilian negotiator, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, said. 

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Money rules the US
Government's ways at home and on the world's stage, as well.]

Sources in Geneva said last night that the negotiating strategy  
had come straight from the White House, with Mr. Cheney seizing  
the reins from America's trade negotiator, Robert Zoellick. 
Mr Zoellick helped broker a deal on affordable drugs at the WTO's  
meeting last year in Doha under which developing countries were  
promised they would be able to override patent laws in the  
interest of public health. 
However, America's drug industry has fought tooth and nail to  
impose the narrowest possible interpretation of the Doha  
declaration, and wants to restrict the deal to drugs to combat  
HIV/Aids, malaria, TB and a shortlist of other diseases unique to  
Trade envoys said that the negotiations were likely to resume  
next month, but last night's failure could push the entire Doha  
agreement, which covers everything from cutting farm subsidies to  
introducing more competition into services, to the brink of  
Earlier in the day America's drug industry had expressed  
confidence that its lobbying of the Bush administration would pay  
"I don't have any indication that the US is changing its position  
on that at all," Shannon Herzfeld of PhRMA, the organization  
representing leading US pharmaceutical companies, told Inside US  
Trade, the specialist trade magazine. 
The industry argues that it spends billions a year on drug  
research and that if copycat companies can override their patents  
and manufacture drugs at bargain prices, research will dry up. 

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
This is always
their claim; that they spend so very much on research for the good of humanity, when, in
fact, most of their R & D money is spent on ads, and the seduction of physicians,
especially medical academics]

However, aid agencies lobbying on behalf of poor countries  
pointed out that the cut-price drugs will only be sold in  
countries which cannot afford to buy them at first-world prices.  
They accused the White House of being in the pocket of big US  
drug corporations. 

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
It couldn't be more true: The White House, the whole of the
US federal government, is in the pocket of big US drug corporations.]

"The joke in Geneva this morning is that they couldn't make a  
decision because the CEOs of Merck and Pfizer were still in bed,"  
said Jamie Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology,  
a US lobby group. "George Bush is arguing that diseases his own  
children receive treatment for are off limits to poor children in  
poor countries." 
Aside from HIV/Aids, drug companies do almost no research into  
the diseases on the US shortlist. It excludes diseases like  
cancer, asthma and pneumonia which are killers in the developing  
as well as the developed world. 
"The drug industry is saying that any disease that is profitable  
to big pharmaceutical companies won't be included," said Mr. Love. 
A deal on cheap drugs is seen as essential to keep developing  
countries engaged in the trade round, which was started at the  
behest of the US and the EU just over a year ago.

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