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Report says
lobbyists unduly influence global AIDS fight

Report says
lobbyists unduly influence global AIDS fight

Corporate lobbyists hamper antiretroviral treatment in poor nations, according to ActionAid.

Corporate lobbyists have an undue influence on the global battles against AIDS and poverty, says a new report by ActionAid International. The report, titled "Under the Influence," says that a worldwide explosion of corporate lobbying is contributing to unfair trade rules that may cost lives. In 2004 the U.S. pharmaceutical industry alone spent over $1 billion on lobbying, according to the report.

The report cites examples of the results of this spending, which includes privileged corporate access to and excessive influence over the World Trade Organization policy-making process to help drugmakers safeguard their profits, even on drugs needed to fight pandemics like HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis.

According to the report, senior officials from Pfizer, the world's largest drug company, in 2003 negotiated directly with the WTO's director-general and its member states to block a proposal that would allow poor countries to import cheaper copies of patented drugs during health emergencies. Drug industry lobbying at the WTO brought about a rule change last year ensuring that countries such as Brazil, India, and Thailand will find it much harder to make cheaper copies of patented medicines, ActionAid says. In 2005, PhRMA, the U.S. drug industry lobbying group whose members include Pfizer and Merck, lobbied the Indian government to bring in a new law that threatens to deny HIV treatment for up to 350,000 people who depend on low-cost Indian drugs worldwide, according to the report.

"Public health officials and donor governments have real humanitarian and strategic goals to achieve when it comes to fighting HIV/AIDS and other diseases of poverty in developing countries, but what we see instead are a few powerful private companies using patent law and their own easy access to official trade negotiators to undermine such long-term public goals in favor of the short-term financial interests of their stock prices and quarterly dividends to shareholders," says Rick Rowden, senior policy analyst for ActionAid, in a press statement. "At what point will citizens say 'enough is enough' and begin demanding that such private sector actors be regulated effectively so that their prerogatives can no longer undermine the effectiveness of our long-term public health policies?" (Advocate.com)

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