On July 24, the White House faced a massive demonstration of activists protesting one of the most deeply distressing aspects of today’s society—the failure of policy makers, politicians, and businesses throughout the world to join the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS.  The protest brought together a diverse mix of people against the backdrop of the International AIDS conference that is in town this week.

The march began from five separate areas, each dedicated to a different demand, and converged on the White House where protestors attached red ribbons, condoms, money, and clean syringes (the tools to combat AIDS) to the White House.  All the while hundreds of protestors chanted that the “world is watching,” and “tax the rich,” among other slogans.

Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines showed up in force along the People Over PhRma Profits route—advocating for lower costs to generic drugs, dropping the Novartis case in India, and fighting against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).   Public Citizen, the American Medical Students Association and other activists marched to the headquarters of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the executive agency responsible for the secret negotiations over the TPP.  Beneath an oversized pharma- fat cat pulling the strings of an actor dressed Ambassador Ron Kirk, Obama’s United States Trade Representative (USTR), activists demanded Kirk’s resignation.

Since Kirk was appointed by President Obama as the United States Trade Representative in 2009, he is currently responsible for negotiating the TPP, a free-trade agreement that threatens to increase the breadth of patentable drugs in the Pacific Rim countries and impose harsh intellectual property regimes. If countries fail to fall in line with Kirk’s draconian IP regime, politicians, individuals and businesses of all sizes will be denied access to the world’s largest market of goods—the U.S.  Facing the strong economic and political pressure of the United States, many countries compromise on the IP portion.  To make matters worse, American businesses are also complicit in efforts outside the TPP to prevent access to medicine.

The protestors next targeted the headquarters of Novartis, a large pharmaceutical company that is suing India on the basis that their patent laws fail to meet international obligations, are unconstitutionally vague, and unfairly let generic drug manufacturers produce cheap drugs.  Although the patent that Novartis is wrangling over in the courts is not an AIDS drug, the fallout from the case will lead to higher prices for 2nd and 3rd line antiretroviral drugs, necessary for AIDS treatment if 1st line treatment prove fail.  Activists cried “shame” and lied down in front of the Novartis office to symbolize the lives Novartis is taking through prohibitive drug prices.

All five branches of the movement united at Lafayette Square, where they marched to the White House together.  Many called on President Obama to fire Kirk, but keep in mind that Kirk is executing a policy the President has put in place.  Obama can easily alleviate the access to medicines issue by endorsing various policy proposals, saving thousands of lives.   Specifically, policies such as federal funding for drug research, government purchase plans, advocating the use of compulsory licenses by emerging countries, or removing the unnecessarily harsh IP provisions in U.S. FTAs would increase access to medicine.  Hopefully, he realizes the prices for these policies are not too expensive.

On July 24, the White House faced a massive demonstration of activists protesting one of the most deeply distressing aspects of today’s society—the failure of policy makers, politicians, and businesses throughout the world to join the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS.  The protest brought together a diverse mix of people against the backdrop of the International AIDS conference that is in town this week.

The march began from five separate areas, each dedicated to a different demand, and converged on the White House where protestors attached red ribbons, condoms, money, and clean syringes (the tools to combat AIDS) to the White House.  All the while hundreds of protestors chanted that the “world is watching,” and “tax the rich,” among other slogans.

Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines showed up in force along the People Over PhRma Profits route—advocating for lower costs to generic drugs, dropping the Novartis case in India, and fighting against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).   Public Citizen, the American Medical Students Association and other activists marched to the headquarters of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the executive agency responsible for the secret negotiations over the TPP.  Beneath an oversized pharma- fat cat pulling the strings of an actor dressed Ambassador Ron Kirk, Obama’s United States Trade Representative (USTR), activists demanded Kirk’s resignation.

Since Kirk was appointed by President Obama as the United States Trade Representative in 2009, he is currently responsible for negotiating the TPP, a free-trade agreement that threatens to increase the breadth of patentable drugs in the Pacific Rim countries and impose harsh intellectual property regimes. If countries fail to fall in line with Kirk’s draconian IP regime, politicians, individuals and businesses of all sizes will be denied access to the world’s largest market of goods—the U.S.  Facing the strong economic and political pressure of the United States, many countries compromise on the IP portion.  To make matters worse, American businesses are also complicit in efforts outside the TPP to prevent access to medicine.

The protesters next targeted the headquarters of Novartis, a large pharmaceutical company that is suing India on the basis that their patent laws fail to meet international obligations, are unconstitutionally vague, and unfairly let generic drug manufacturers produce cheap drugs.  Although the patent that Novartis is wrangling over in the courts is not an AIDS drug, the fallout from the case will lead to higher prices for 2nd and 3rd line antiretroviral drugs, necessary for AIDS treatment if 1st line treatment prove fail.  Activists cried “shame” and lied down in front of the Novartis office to symbolize the lives Novartis is taking through prohibitive drug prices.

All five branches of the movement united at Lafayette Square, where they marched to the White House together.  Many called on President Obama to fire Kirk, but keep in mind that Kirk is executing a policy the President has put in place.  Obama can easily alleviate the access to medicines issue by endorsing various policy proposals, saving thousands of lives.   Specifically, policies such as federal funding for drug research, government purchase plans, advocating the use of compulsory licenses by emerging countries, or removing the unnecessarily harsh IP provisions in U.S. FTAs would increase access to medicine.  Hopefully, he realizes the prices for these policies are not too expensive.

 

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