Compulsory Hypocrisy

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  • 11/16/2007
The recent session of the WHO’s Intergovernmental Governmental Working Group (IGWG) ended without consensus. And that’s a good thing considering that many of the issues on the table would have resulted in a screeching halt to medical progress.

The IGWG discussions were completely void of innovators -- with pharmaceutical researchers relegated to the sidelines. In their place were activists who are unwilling (and seemingly unable) to engage in any discussion that does not begin and end with removing systems of intellectual property (IP) protection for medicines.

As with many of their ilk, these activists believe in freedom of speech – as long as what you say supports their position. Otherwise you’re a capitalist tool. Their grasp on the truth is, well, questionable.

Consider this statement from our comrades over at Médecins Sans Frontières:

“Patents are not a relevant factor in stimulating R&D and bringing new products to the market.”

Really? What about HIV/AIDS, one of the WHO’s “neglected diseases,” where all of antiretrovirals currently in existence were developed under patent protection.

If their grasp on the truth is questionable, their chutzpah is unlimited.

Consider a recent editorial the latest publication of The Lancet where officials of the Thai military junta attack comments offered by patient organizations and other groups to the open forum of the IGWG.

“The issue that attracted the most responses was intellectual property (IP), which was cited in 43 of 68 submissions. Although we were not surprised to see that 11 of 12 organisations directly affiliated with the pharmaceutical industry supported strong IP protection, it was surprising that 14 patient advocacy groups took a similar position, which in several cases was the only point raised in their submissions; three professional associations also took similar positions … We declare that we have no conflict of interest."

This last comment is made after they state that, "We strongly suggest that contributors to public hearings must disclose any conflicts of interest, as required of authors submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals."

The authors did not declare that the Thai Ministry of Health owns the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) -- and that the GPO stands to significantly benefit financially from a proposed IGWG agenda strongly supports compulsory licensing.

Well, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Transparency should cut both ways – even in Geneva.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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