James Love on Sat, 20 Feb 1999 20:54:56 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> State Department NGO meeting on International HIV/AIDS initiative

     [orig to INFO-POLICY-NOTES <info-policy-notes@essential.org>]

Info-Policy-Notes | News from Consumer Project on Technology 
February 20, 1999

	Department of State bans discussion of intellectual
	property rights at NGO briefing on International 
	HIV/AIDS initiative

Over the past year, CPT has focused on a number of intellectual 
property and health care issues. Our work on this topic
is on the web at http://www.cptech.org/ip/health

The attached letter from Ralph Nader and James Love to 
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expresses dismay 
over a February 18, 1999 State Department meeting with 
NGO's (non government organizations, such as public
health or consumer groups), to discuss the U.S. Diplomatic 
Initiative on International HIV/AIDS.  CPT has been 
actively involved in a number of trade disputes
involving the United States and foreign countries over
HIV/AIDS and other essential medicines.  CPT had earlier
filed comments with the Department of State on the
International HIV/AIDS initiative, objecting to US 
opposition to compulsory licensing of essential medicines 
in developing countries.   CPT tried to raise these
issues in the February 18, 1998 State/NGO meeting.

As discussed in the attached letter,  the Department of State 
told the NGOs they could not talk about intellectual property 
right issues or criticiize US policy.  This occured one day 
after the Department of State meet with the Pharmacuetical 
Industry to discuss ways of stopping compulsory licensing of 
HIV/AIDS drugs.   Jamie

                              Ralph Nader
                              P.O. Box 19312
                              Washington, DC 20036

                              James Love
                              Consumer Project on Technology
                              P.O. Box 19367
                              Washington, DC 20036
                              202.387.8030; love@cptech.org

February 18, 1999

Secretary Madeleine Albright
Department of State
2201 C St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
(202) 647-4000
FAX: (202) 647-7120
E-mail: secretary@state.gov

Re:  US State Department briefing on US Diplomatic Initiative on

Dear Secretary Albright:

     We are writing to express our dismay over the U.S. State
Department February 18, 1999 "Meeting with NGO community on U.S.
Diplomatic Initiative on International HIV/AIDS."  In particular,
we strongly object to the decision by Nancy Carter-Foster to ban
NGO discussions of intellectual property issues as they relate to
the new U.S. Diplomatic Initiative on HIV/AIDS, and her
insistence that the Consumer Project on Technology (CPT) not even
be permitted to distribute literature about international
HIV/intellectual property right disputes.

     What is particularly galling about today's incident is that
Ms Carter-Foster chaired a similar briefing for the
pharmaceutical industry just yesterday, and the issue of
compulsory licensing of AIDS drugs was one of five items on the
agenda.  We are attaching both agendas.  For the February 17,
1999 meeting, item four is "Automatic patenting for AIDS drugs." 
This item was not included in the NGO meeting agenda, and NGO
participants were not permitted to even discuss the topic.

     We found out about the industry meeting through a
bureaucratic snafu.  At the close of work on Monday, the 15th, Ms
Nancy Carter-Foster sent a fax to CPT saying "We would like to
keep you apprised of our progress to date and to involve you in
the launch and implementation of the diplomatic initiative,"
inviting us to the February 17 meeting.  CPT replied and
indicated James Love would attend.  We were then faxed an agenda
that included the "automatic patenting" issue.  

     Apparently CPT was invited as a consequence of having
submitted November 6, 1998 comments to the Department of State. 
These comments specifically addressed compulsory licensing of
AIDS drugs in Thailand and other countries, and CPT asked that
intellectual property issues be addressed in the International
HIV/AIDS document.

     When Mr. Love attended yesterday's February 17 meeting, he
advised Ms Carter-Foster that he worked for a consumer group,
noted that the agenda indicated this was an industry meeting, and
asked if a mistake had been made regarding the invitation.  Ms
Carter-Foster said that yes there had been a mistake and that Mr.
Love should leave and return the next day for the meeting with
non-industry NGOs.  Before leaving, Mr. Love asked about the
"automatic licensing" item, and was told the agenda item
concerned compulsory licensing of AIDS drugs, and specifically a
meeting that CPT, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Health
Action International (HAI) were hosting in Geneva on March 26,
1999 to discuss compulsory licensing of essential medicines. 
Since Mr. Love was in fact one of the organizers of the March 26
Geneva meeting, there was a brief discussion about the meeting
before his departure.  

     When Mr. Love returned to his office he contacted Ms Carter-
Foster's staff to make sure he was cleared for the meeting on the
18th, and he asked if the compulsory licensing issue was on the
agenda for the NGO briefing.  It was not.  Mr. Love requested
that the compulsory licensing topic be added, noting that it was
an agenda item for the Industry briefing, that compulsory
licensing of AIDS drugs was the main subject of CPT's November 6,
1998 comments on the International initiative, and that the U.S.
was actively engaged in disputes about compulsory licensing in
developing countries.

     When today's meeting began, Ms. Carter-Foster distributed a
three item agenda that did not include compulsory licensing.  Ms.
Carter-Foster indicated she would permit a five minute discussion
of this topic at the conclusion of the meeting.  About 50 minutes
into the meeting, Ms Carter-Foster asked the attendees to
describe their work with international NGOs and other foreign
governments.  Mr. Love began to describe his work with public
health groups and other NGOs and governments in several
developing counties on matters concerning intellectual property.
He expressed frankly the concerns among public health groups that
US State Department staff were often poorly informed on
intellectual property disputes, and that the Department of State
was widely perceived to have become an unseemly advocate for the
interests of the pharmaceutical industry.

     Ms Carter-Foster interrupted Mr. Love and indicated that
matters concerning intellectual property rights would not be
discussed in the meeting, and that Mr. Love would not be
permitted to criticize US policy during the meeting.  Mr. Love
asked to distribute a September 1998 article from the Nation, an
English language Thai newspaper, about a trade dispute between
the US and Thailand over the compulsory licensing of ddI, an HIV
drug invented by the United State government and marketed on an
exclusive basis by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), and BMS and Pfizer
drugs used to treat cryptocolcal meningitis, "a fungal infection
of the brain that affects 15 to 20 percent of the estimated
900,000 HIV-infected people in Thailand."  Ms Carter-Foster
interrupted Mr. Love, told him he could not discuss the matter,
and could not distribute the article.

     Finally, at the end of the hour and a half meeting, an
astonishingly patronizing Ms Carter-Foster said that Mr. Love
would have three minutes to talk, but that he could not criticize
U.S. policy, mention specific disputes, or pass out any
literature.  Under those constraints, Mr. Love mentioned that
policies regarding intellectual property rights were highly
relevant to access to HIV/AIDS drugs in developing countries,
that this was a major issue with governments around the world,
and that the US government was very active in these disputes. 
Mr. Love said   citizen of the United States have a right to ask
the government to (1) state what US policies on intellectual
property rights are (2), provide the documents and analysis that
justify those policies, and (3) to discuss these polices with
public health groups.

     Clearly American citizens have a right to know what our
policies are on these topics, and we do not accept the notion
that the Department of State will only consult with the
pharmaceutical companies on these important issues.
     We ask that you provide a second NGO briefing to
specifically discuss U.S. policies on intellectual property and
access to HIV/AIDS drugs in developing countries.  Furthermore,
we ask that such a meeting be held with adequate notice.  As
indicated above, CPT received less than 48 hours notice of the
meeting on the 17th.  Moreover, the short notice prevented others
from attending.  For example, on the 16th, less than a day after
we heard about the meeting, Mr. Eric Sawyer, a New York City AIDS
activist, contacted the Department of State asking for clearance
to attend the NGO meeting on the 18th.  His clearance was not
approved until 11 am today, about two hours before the meeting. 
As a consequence of the short notice, Mr. Sawyer, who lives in
New York, could not attend. 

     We look forward to your undelegated response so that your
views about this important matter are conveyed directly to us and
the public.


Ralph Nader                        James Love  

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