Monthly Archives: June 2007

Say No to Patent Protection for Lifesaving Medicines

Author Greg Behrman wrote: “The disease called AIDS is a treatable illness, and it is also a death sentence. How can this be? The answer is two words: money and geography. If you live in the USA and the developed world, it’s highly unlikely you’ll die from the disease. If you live in Africa or India, you’re doomed.” (from The Invisible People: How the U.S. Has Slept Through the Global AIDS Pandemic.)

For millions infected with HIV, not only in India but throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America, survival might well depend on affordable Indian generic drugs. For years, India’s pharmaceutical industry has produced and exported low-cost generic versions of the world’s most effective medications for diseases ranging from HIV to tuberculosis. In AIDS-wracked countries like Lesotho and Zimbabwe, more than 90 percent of lifesaving antiretroviral drugs are imported from India.

Now, pharmaceutical giant Novartis is suing the Indian government to change a section of the country’s patent law that safeguards public health. If Novartis wins this case, the production of Indian generic drugs could be cut back — and millions of the world’s most vulnerable people could lose access to the medicine they need to survive.

These drugs have been readily available in rich western nations for years, and to the affluent in any country. It does not seem morally permissible to allow such suffering when treatment is widely available to people who can afford it. Because HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects those already living without basic provisions of health care, education, and nutrition, it creates an apartheid between the rich and the poor.

We wonder why generations before us didn’t speak up as entire peoples were kidnapped from their home countries and enslaved. We ask how the world could have stood by and allowed six million Jews to be exterminated in the Holocaust. How will we answer when our children ask what we did while millions were orphaned by AIDS?

Join me in telling Novartis that people are more important than patents. Sign the petition against patent protection for drugs that can save millions of lives.