Cheney blocks global drug deal

Cheney blocks global drug deal

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

Vice-President Richard Cheney, according to a recent report in The Guardian, a British newspaper, has moved to block the sale of prescription drugs at low prices to the world’s poor countries.

The newspaper said Cheney’s action came after intense lobbying of the White House by U.S. pharmaceutical companies. The drug industry has more than 600 lobbyists in Washington.

Despite furious opposition by the other 140 members of the World Trade Organization, the U.S. refused to relax global patent laws which price these drugs beyond the reach of most developing nations.

Talks at the WTO’s Geneva, Switzerland headquarters collapsed after Cheney ruled out a deal that would have allowed a full range of life-saving drugs to be brought into Africa, Asia, and Latin America at cut-rate prices.

The paper said Cheney intervened and took over negotiations from the U.S. representative, Robert Zoellick. U.S. drug companies argue they spend billions a year on drug research and if copycat companies can ignore their patents and make these drugs at bargain prices, then research will dry up. Critics have attacked that argument as myth.

Aid agencies, acting on behalf of poor nations, said the lower priced drugs would be sold only in countries that cannot afford to buy them at the higher prices. They charged the White House is in the pocket of the big U.S. drug corporations.

“The joke in Geneva…is that they couldn’t make a decision because the CEOs of Merck and Pfizer were still in bed,” said Jamie Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, a U.S. lobby group.

“George Bush is arguing that diseases his own children receive treatment for are off limits to poor children in poor countries,” Love said.

The Guardian reported that apart from HIV/Aids, drug companies do almost no research into diseases on the U.S. list. That excludes diseases such as cancer.

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