December 21st, 2002


Wow. The biggest drug pushers *ARE* a bunch of rich white Republicans...

hopeforyou mentioned that the US has blocked passage of an international agreement which allows poor countries around the world to buy cheap drugs to combat health epidemics, such as AIDS, malaria, etc.

I did a bit of research into this, and found that the situation was even uglier than I thought.

On November 14th of this year, PhRMA, an organization that is funded by and lobbies for U.S. drug companies, sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative and to members of congress, urging that the agreement adopt a solution "specifically limited to the diseases that were the focus of the Doha Declaration, namely HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria and other epidemics of similar scale. In addition, it should be clear that only truly disadvantaged the recipient of the changed rules."

According to Medecins Sans Frontieres website, the US representatives at the meeting to approve the agreement demanded changes to it. Specifically, they demanded that the diseases covered by the agreement be limited to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and "other infectious epidemics of comparable gravity and scale that may arise in the future". They also demanded that such benefits be limited to only the 49 least developed countries in the world. These demands are almost verbatim to those requested by the drug companies.

Although I don't have the latest information on their donations in the past month or so, PhRMA have been donating *VERY* heavily to the Republicans recently. reveals seven seperate donations to the NRCC during just the first 11 days of October, totalling $620,000. It will be interesting to check back once the latest data comes in to see if additional PhRMA donations came in around the time of their lobbying of congress and the Bush administration.

Also revealed is an extreme shift in the donation patterns of the pharmaceutical industry over the past few years.

In 1990, the pharmaceutical industry donated just over three million dollars to politicians, making them the 26th ranked industry for political donations. 54% of their donations went to Republicans and 46 % went to Democrats. This year, the pharmaceutical industry donated nineteen million dollars to politicians, a sixfold increase, and now rank as the tenth most active industry for political donations. 73% of their donations now go to Republicans with 27% going to Democrats. Total donations have gone up 600% since 1990. Donations to Democrats went up about 360% in that time, but donations to Republicans went up 823%.

The reason for this shift in and huge expansion of lobbying and donations by the pharmaceutical industry over the past few years is obvious. Democrats have favored efforts to lower health care costs, especially for prescription drugs. The cost of prescription drugs are projected to go up by 20% in 2002 alone. In comparison, between 1992 and 1995, the price of drugs went up around 5-6% per year.

The big change has been how new drugs have been marketed, both to consumers and to doctors. The drug industry is making record profits and is the most profitable sector of the US economy, but at the same time, it still manages to spend record amounts on advertising drugs to consumers, record amounts on promoting new drugs to doctors, record amounts on lobbying, and record amounts in political donations.

Have no doubt -- all this money from drug companies (and its "blank check" acceptance by our lawmakers) is a calculated and cynical effort that values profits and intellectual property more than human lives.

It's worth noting that the treatment regimen for infectious diseases such as AIDS is so expensive that people in poor countries couldn't begin to afford the drug company's non-generic drugs, so offering generics to poor countries may not negatively effect their revenue... certainly not enough to justify what will surely happen if the world's poor aren't treated for infectious diseases.

The end result is that potentially millions of people will die, and that third world nations will face insurmountable poverty and hardship in trying to combat medical epidemics. The world will be less stable and less safe for U.S. citizens too, not only because of the political unrest that poverty and disease cause, but also because of the increased risk of disease transmission that comes from inadequate medical treatment.

Epidemics are citizens of the world and don't pay attention to international borders. For this reason, they must be agressively treated at the source of outbreaks if we are to safeguard the health of the world at large.

Then again, leaving infectious diseases untreated in poorer parts of the world so they can spread to wealthier nations who *can* afford treatment is good business for the drug industry. They have no obligation to save lives. They don't even have the obligation to "do no harm", as doctors do. They *do*, however, have obligations to their shareholders.

Scary thought, but one worth thinking about.

As for me, I don't think I want to support the pharmaceutical industry anymore until it stops conspiring to kill the poor and buy Republican politicians into office. I'll stick to generics, thanks.

New old movies!

I saw The Impostors recently, and thought it was a lot of fun in a '30s, screwball, yet sophisticated and fun way. Cool soundtrack too, if you like tango and 30's era music.

It would be fun to do a movie night with The Impostors and Man of the Century, which is probably even more brilliant and slapstick ... and cocktails, of course. Fancy dress appreciated, yet optional.