Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Update: Global Fund Executive Director

Three finalists for the position of Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria have been announced. Richard Feachem, who has been the Executive Director since 2001, will be replaced by either Michel Kazatchkine, France's HIV/AIDS ambassador; David Nabarro, a British national now leading the United Nation's efforts to fight avian flu; or Alex Coutinho, executive director of the AIDS Support Organization in Kampala, Uganda.

The Boston Globe followed up on this story.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Update: Médecins Sans Frontières to Novartis

Quarter of a Million People Urge Novartis To Drop Case Against India
Company Would Effectively be Shutting Down the "Pharmacy of the Developing World"

New Delhi/Geneva, 29 January 2007 – As pharmaceutical company Novartis proceeded with its legal challenge against the Indian government in a court hearing in Chennai, India, today, nearly a quarter of a million people from over 150 countries expressed their concern about the negative impact the company's actions could have on access to medicines in developing countries. The Indian Network for People with HIV/AIDS (INP+), the People's Health Movement, the Centre for Trade and Development (Centad), together with the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), called on the company again today to immediately cease its legal action in India.

The court hearing will continue February 15.

Read MSF's entire press release at:

Listen to the teleconference and see the transcript here:

Listen to Loon Gangte, participant in this press conference and Regional Coordinator of South Asia Collaborative Fund for HIV Treatment Preparedness (formerly from Delhi Network of Positive People), talk with Human Rights Watch:

Monday, January 29, 2007

Update: Thailand to allow generic versions of Plavix and Kaletra

Thailand’s government, in a landmark decision today, approved the production of cheaper versions of two major medicines for heart disease and HIV/AIDS (Plavix and Kaletra respectively). The government took advantage of the World Trade Organization’s rules on intellectual property to declare a “national emergency”, allowing them to produce and sell already patented drugs.

Health Minister Mongkol na Songkhla has been widely quoted today for saying,“We have to do this because we don’t have enough money to buy safe and necessary drugs for the people under the government’s universal health scheme”.
Ms. Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul of Doctors Without Borders commented, “It is a brave decision”.

Read more on this recent development in:
Bangkok Post

International Herald Tribune
Scientific American
Wall Street Journal
Business Week

Friday, January 26, 2007

Access to essential medicines

Lancet‘s recent editorial, “Undermining TRIPS: protectionism at its worst”, brings to light two international campaigns that will likely be of great signficance for the future of poor countries’ access to medicines. The campaigns, led by Doctors Without Borders and host of other organizations, are working to uphold the rules of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement that allow, in certain situations, essential medicines in developing countries to be distributed at affordable prices. This agreement is currently threatened by large pharmaceutical companies that are taking steps to expand their rights to patent their medicines. Of particular urgency right now is a case pursued by Novartis, a Swiss company, against the Indian government, and a case led by Merck against the Thai Government.

These are important and complicated cases with implications for the future of free trade, public health, and human rights. Here is a list of important links—certainly not exhaustive—to provide background on the issue:

Novartis & India

"Novartis Challenges Indian safeguards"

MSF: Q&A on patents in India and the Novartis case

"MSF Urges Novartis to Drop Case Against Indian Government"

"India’s 2005 Patent Act"

Merck et al. & Thailand

Thai Health Ministry To Issue Compulsory License for Merck's HIV/AIDS Drug Efavirenz
MSF: Open Letter to Condaleezza Rice

Intellectual Property & Free Trade

“What are Intellectual Property Rights?”
The Doha Declaration
Declaration on TRIPS agreement and Public Health

“The FTAA, Access to HIV/AIDS Treatment, and Human Rights”, a Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper

Harvard Political Review: "Patients vs. Patents"

Listen to Sangeeta Shashikant, Researcher for Third World Network in Kuala Lumpur, comment on patents and access to generic medicines.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Boston Globe: Global Health Organization prepares to name leader

WASHINGTON -- The next leader of a global organization that fights major infectious diseases, including AIDS, may come from a group that includes the former health minister of Mexico, France's AIDS ambassador, the former leader of UNICEF, and several leaders of the World Health Organization, according to a list of names obtained by the Globe.

The board overseeing the organization, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, failed to select a new executive director last November and now hopes to name one at a meeting in Geneva early next month.

Read this article at: