Clinton Stands Up to US Patent Bullies

If the next president of the World Bank is once again to be an American, George

W Bush could do no better than to nominate his predecessor, Bill Clinton,

to the job. Clinton has the vanishingly rare combination of being able to understand

complex development issues, on the one hand, while being a master politician,

on the other – something very necessary if the president of the Bank isn’t

to be hamstrung by the micromanagement of its board.

Clinton is also bold, when he needs to be: just look at how he treats US drug

companies who are charging too much money for Aids drugs in countries such as

Thailand. Celia

Dugger reports on his foundation’s initiative to provide cheaper, patent-infringing

drugs from India:

Jennifer Smoter, a spokeswoman for Abbott, said patents were needed “to

ensure innovation in the future” but declined to respond to Mr. Clinton’s

comment that “Abbott has been almost alone in its hard-line position

here over what I consider to be a life and death matter.”…

Jeffrey L. Sturchio, a vice president at Merck in New Jersey, says his company

strives to balance providing the broadest possible access to AIDS drugs while

maintaining financial incentives to attract companies to conduct research

and development on new drugs.

Brazil and Thailand have overridden Merck’s patent on the AIDS drug

efavirenz, an ingredient of the new, improved first-line AIDS therapies. Merck

had been charging Brazil $577 annually per patient, a price it agreed to drop

to $400 a year after Brazil said it was considering overriding the patent.

The Clinton Foundation’s new price for the generic drug is $164.

The drug companies are on very thin ice here: Clinton’s quite right that they

don’t need Thai profts to run their R&D operations. And the US, which last

week put Thailand on a watch list for countries inadequately safeguarding the

intellectual property rights of American companies, is simply being a global

bully on a subject which needs much more humanity and much less profiteering.

The fact is that intellectual property rights are conferred by the laws of

individual countries, and there’s no reason why those rights should be as strict

in Thailand as they are in the US, which has taken such rights way too far.

Clinton understands this; Bush does not. Which is one of a million reasons why

Bush will not nominate Clinton to the World Bank, more’s the pity.

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