Candidate GORE zaps

Congratulations to these courageous activists. While none of the activists were arrested, several were beaten by Gore supporters. Apparently no one was seriously injured, though some sustained bruises.

AIDS ACTIVISTS DISRUPT AL GORE'S ANNOUNCEMENT OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY: PROTESTORS DEMAND GLOBAL ACCESS TO ANTI-HIV DRUGS AND AN END TO VICE-PRESIDENT'S BULLYING OF SOUTH AFRICA

Cartharge, TN--Wednesday, June 16,1999--AIDS activists disrupted Vice President Al Gore's announcement of his presidential candidacy today on the steps of the Smith County Courthouse. 15 protestors blew air horns and chanted "Gore is killing Africans-AIDS drugs now" at the moment of Gore's announcement, calling attention to the pivotal role the Vice President has played in preventing HIV positive South Africans from obtaining the drugs they need to survive.

Gore has been widely criticized for his central role in promoting controversial US trade policy on South African and other developing nations. AIDS activists and trade experts charge Gore with prioritizing the profit motives of the pharmaceutical industry above the needs of 22.5 million people living with AIDS in Africa, virtually all of whom have no access to affordable medications.

Most people with AIDS in developing nations die of treatable, preventable infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia, because medications are priced out of their reach, and out of the reach of their domestic governments. The average annual income in South African is US $2600, while an estimated cost of one month's supply of AIDS drugs is US $1000.

South Africa and other developing countries have sought tools to respond to the crisis in medication access, including "compulsory licensing"-the granting of local licenses to produce generic equivalents of patented medications when the public health is threatened by lack of medication access. This practice could lower drug prices as much as 90%. Compulsory licensing is legal under the terms and conditions of current international trade agreements, and includes provisions for royalties for the patent holder.

Gore has publicly threatened severe trade sanctions against South Africa in response to the governments' efforts to enact a domestic law to allow production of essential AIDS drugs through compulsory licensing.

"At the expense of human life, Gore is protecting the multi-billion dollar drug industry he and his presidential campaign hope to benefit from. His actions against South Africa are morally reprehensible," said SharonAnn Lynch, an activist who confronted Gore today. "I am outraged that Gore is siding with the drug companies on an issue, where the moral imperative is clear: South Africans must be allowed to take the necessary steps to address the AIDS crisis in their nation."

"Gore has said that the international AIDS pandemic must be a top priority for developing nations as the Chair of the South African Bi-national Commission," said Anna Kramarsky, also of AIDS Drugs for Africa." And all the while he has been using his position to bully South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, threatening trade sanctions if the South African government dares respond to the needs of its millions of dying citizens."

"Developing nations are being faced with an unprecedented health emergency, and they must be allowed to use the range of tools available to them, including compulsory licensing of necessary drugs," said Mark Milano from AIDS Drugs for Africa.

"I am outraged that Gore is using his clout as the Vice President to squelch the life-saving efforts of the South African government," said Mel Stevens. "We will follow Gore every step of his campaign, until he stops doing the dirty work of the drug companies for them."

Contact Eric Sawyer: 212-864-5672

>All this is because Gore went to South Africa and, in closed meetings,
>threatened them with severe trade sanctions if they went ahead with their
>legal plan to manufacture their own versions of AIDS drugs at cheap
>prices. Gore and Clinton are propping up drug company profits so Gore can
>get campaign contributions. It's ugly.

GORE STUMPING DISRUPTED FOR SECOND TIME
AIDS Activists confront VP on African drug policy

June 17, 1999 , Manchester NH

AIDS activists took over Vice President Al Gore's second campaign stop this morning in Manchester, New Hampshire. The activists were protesting Gore's instrumental role in preventing AIDS medications from reaching people in developing countries, including South Africa and Thailand.

Five protesters, organized by the local chapter of AIDS Drugs for Africa, disrupted Gore's campaign speech with noisemakers, chants and banners reading "GORE'S GREED KILLS: AFRICA NEEDS AIDS DRUGS." They were seated directly behind Gore in the audience of 300 in the Hesser College Gym.

"After our protest, Gore said AIDS drugs for Africa are very important. Yet, he is personally standing in the way of cheap, life-saving treatment for Africans with HIV", said Moshe Mizrahi, a protester. "I guess Gore does have strong family values after all; he has family ties to the pharmaceutical lobby and he's killing people on their behalf."

Gore's domestic policy advisor, David Beier, is the former head lobbyist for Genetech, a major U.S. pharmaceutical company. Tony Podesta, top Gore advisor and brother of Clinton's chief of staff, is currently the contracted lobbyist for PhARMA (Pharmaceutical Manufacturer's Association) and most other U.S. drug interests. Tom Downey, close Gore associate and former congressman, lobbies for Merck pharmaceuticals. Gore fundraiser Peter Knight is a former Schering-Plough lobbyist.

Gore has vehemently opposed the practice of "compulsory licensing", which allows local companies to produce cheap, generic AIDS drugs. He has threatened sanctions against the South African government unless President Thabo Mbeki calls a halt to generic drug production. Compulsory licensing is legal under current international trade agreements, and provides royalties to patent owners. AIDS medications would be available at 10% of their American price.

Currently, 22.5 million Africans are HIV-positive, including up to 26% of young adults, and totaling 67% of the world's HIV+ population. Virtually all are poor and unable to afford treatment at American prices. Most AIDS deaths in developing countries result from lack of access to drugs for treatable infections. Average income in South Africa is $2,600/year, and name-brand AIDS drugs cost around $12,000/year.

Pharmaceutical companies based in the U.S., long under attack for price-gouging at the expense of human lives, have claimed that the high cost of treatment reflects their production expenses. These companies stand to lose credibility as generic drug licensing exposes the true low cost of AIDS drug production; which may prevent them from continuing to drastically overcharge in first-world markets.

"Gore's abuse of power is a campaign issue," said Anna Janssen, a local AIDS activist. "He's taken a position, for the sake of earning points with lobbyists, that absolutely guarantees millions of deaths. Now he wants us to place our fate in his hands as President. Personally, I don't dare."

Local chapters of AIDS Drugs For Africa have vowed to confront Gore at every campaign stop.

THIRD ACTION:

Al Gore came to Wall Street this morning, June 17, 1999, to deliver the same speech about compassion and conscience that he's given elsewhere. He was interrupted by several pockets of activists from Fed Up Queers, Health GAP, ACT UP and other participants in the movement for AIDS DRUGS FOR AFRICA. Demonstrators were anticipated and his volunteers were sent to surround people in the audience who were suspected to be protesters and told to rip down any signs and otrherwise silence them. But they were unsuccessful, and the activists captured a lot of press attention, especially in the absence of anything else interesting coming from his campaign, and also the support of quite a few observers. What a beautiful string of actions!!!

LIST OF ACTIONS: > > > > >

June 16, 1999 > Carthage, Tennessee
June 17, 1999 > Manchester, New Hampshire
June 17, 1999 > Wall Street, New York City
June 26, 1999 > 700 person march at a Gore fundraiser in Philadelphia
June 29, 1999 > Tipper Gore fundraiser, NYC
July 16, 1999 > Tipper Gore fundraiser, Washington, DC
August 8, 1999 > Gore fundraisers, New Hampshire
August 23, 1999 > Blocking the entrance to Gore's offices in D.C.
October 6, 1999 > 1,000 person march to the USTR offices in D.C.
November 17, 1999 > Occupying the offices of the USTR and unfurling a banner on its balcony
November 30, 1999 > 900 person march to the White House on the eve of World AIDS Day

RESULTS:

On September 17, 1999, USTR Charlene Barshefsky announced an agreement with South Africa that would lead to its removal from the 301 Watch List. Other than general statements that it would honor the TRIPS agreement, the S. African government did not change its policies - a major victory for S. Africa as well as health advocates in general.

On December 1, 1999, President Clinton announced, at the WTO meeting in Seattle, that the U.S. government would change U.S. trade policy to support greater access to lifesaving medications:

"...the United States will henceforward implement its health care and trade policies in a manner that ensures that people in the poorest countries won't have to go without medicine they so desperately need."

Secretary Donna Shalala also announced a new cooperative arrangement whereby the USTR would work with HHS to assess the health ramifications of the U.S. intellectual property rights policy when applied to trade disputes.

HealthGAP held a series of meetings with USTR staff in early 2000 to press for an explicit description of this process, and broadened the request to include not just sub-Saharan Africa, but all developing countries. Representatives from the offices of the President and Vice President were pressed to seek a Federal Executive Order codifying this policy change.

In March 2000, the new USTR Trade Watch List was announced; most countries placed on this list in prior years due to pharmaceutical related conflicts had been removed.

On May 10, 2000 President Clinton signed an Executive Order codifying the Administration's new policy. The Order stated:

"The United States shall not seek, through negotiation or otherwise, the revocation or revision of any intellectual property law or policy" of sub-Saharan African countries provided that they promote "access to HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals or medical technologies for affected populations in that country."

The Executive Order also stated that the U.S. would not invoke its trade laws concerning patents, but instead hold sub-Saharan countries to the less stringent standards of the TRIPS agreement.

see also: Activist Efforts to Improve Global Access to AIDS Medications. Durban AIDS Conference, July 6, 2000



For those who don't know, The Lancet is one of the world's most prestigious medical journals (based in the UK). Zidovudine is another name for AZT. This story doesn't give the background -- that this agreement between Zuma & local activists to pressure the multinational drug companies (and Glaxo's offer of free drugs to a tiny no. of pregnant women at one South African hospital, which prompted Zuma's decision to allow that small program to proceed) followed an activist demo outside Glaxo's South African office, which in turn was inspired by our demo at PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) in April.

Lancet, 15 May 1999

CAPE TOWN: When pharmaceutical wrangles cast a wide net...

On April 30, South African Health Minister, Nkosazana Zuma, shifted her stance on zidovudine by giving assurances that she would name an affordable price for the drug within 6 weeks. Anti-AIDS activists have been at loggerheads with Zuma since she cancelled zidovudine pilot projects at antenatal clinics, arguing that the government could not afford the drug (see Lancet 1999; 353: 908 ). Now, it seems the two sides have joined forces to take on international pharmaceutical companies, urging them to drop their prices.

At issue is a section of South Africa's Medicines and Related Substances Act, which is yet to be promulgated, and which US officials and drug manufacturers argue violates patent rights needed to protect their research. The act is being challenged in the South Africa High Court by international pharmaceutical companies.

A US state department report sent to Congress before Gore's trip to South Africa in February said: US government agencies had engaged in an all out bid to "convince the South African government to withdraw or amend the offending provisions" from the law. On May 1, South Africa's vice-president, Thabo Mbeki, denied being browbeaten by his American counterpart into abandoning his government's quest for cheaper drugs.
___>>> James Love

GORE'S PATENTED MONEY MOVES

Why is Vice President Al Gore leading the Clinton Administration's efforts to prevent Third World countries like South Africa from producing or buying affordable generic versions of critically needed AIDS drugs? The answer: there's a presidential campaign on, and literally millions of dollars in hard and soft money contributions to be had by serving the interests of the U.S. and European pharmaceutical industry.

Right now, the epicenter of the AIDS crisis is in the Third World, where most people cannot afford the sophisticated drugs that have proven helpful in slowing the progress of the disease. South African officials estimate, for example, that 20 percent of pregnant women there are HIV-positive, and a total of 3.2 million out of 40 million people are infected. In response, the country passed a law in 1997 allowing the licensing of domestic production of generic versions of AIDS drugs as well as the purchasing of cheaper versions on the
world market. Many other countries are considering similar steps.

But the pharmaceutical industry is worried that if Third World countries go ahead with these plans, their ability to charge vastly inflated prices back home in the U.S. may be undercut. While AZT, for example, can be purchased on the world market for 42 cents for 300
mg, it retails in the U.S. for nearly $6 a pill.

In response, the Clinton Administration, taking its lead from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Glaxo-Wellcome, and Pfizer, which make the most widely used AIDS drugs, has charged South Africa with violating the World Trade Organization's rules regarding patents and intellectual property. Despite the fact that the WTO explicitly allows members to take such steps in the face of a national emergency or for public non-commercial use, the U.S. has placed South Africa on a "watch" list as a free-trade violator and denied it special tariff breaks on its exports. As co-chair with South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki of the main U.S.-South Africa trade commission, Vice President Gore has been at the forefront of this push, making the issue of "pharmaceutical patents in particular a central focus of his discussions with Deputy President Mbeki," according to a recent State Department report.

At first glance, Gore's assiduous efforts seem counter-intuitive, since campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical lobby have tilted mostly to Republicans, especially since President Clinton's ill-fated effort at health care reform. But Gore, who has boasted of his goal to raise a record-breaking $55 million in 1999 for his presidential campaign, is clearly building on a long-standing foundation and series of relationships. And he has good reason to expect that the flow of pharmaceutical dollars will increase in his direction in the coming months.

Before he ascended to the Vice Presidency, from 1983 to 1990 Congressman and Senator Al Gore raised at least $18,650 in PAC contributions from pharmaceuticals, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Clinton-Gore campaigns of 1992 and 1996 brought in $582,945 from Squibb, Glaxo-Wellcome, Pfizer and the PhRMA, including individual hard and soft money contributions to the Democratic party committees. Big drug companies also gave or lent another $250,000 to pay for Clinton-Gore's 1993 Inauguration. In 1997-98, Gore's "Leadership 98" PAC, the staging ground for his 2000 campaign, raised another $51,000 from pharmaceutical interests, and the four groups cited above gave another $276,850 in soft and hard money to Democratic party committees.

The Gore campaign is also well-positioned to reap a bumper crop of pharmaceutical cash. Anthony Podesta, a close friend and top advisor to Gore, is one of the PhRMA's chief lobbyists. His firm was paid $160,000 by PhRMA to lobby on patent issues, among other matters, between January 1997 and June 1998. He was also retained by Genentech, a major biotech firm with an intense interest in protecting its patents, at the tune of $260,000 for the same period. (Genentech supplied $229,225 in soft and hard money contributions to Clinton-Gore and Democratic party committees between 1991 and 1998.) Former congressman Tom Downey, Gore's "First Friend" since their days together on the Hill, is a lobbyist for Merck. Peter Knight, Gore's head fundraiser, made $120,000 lobbying for Schering-Plough, another deep-pocketed drug company, in the first half of 1998. And Gore's chief domestic policy adviser, David Beier, was previously the top in-house lobbyist for Genentech.

These people know who to dial for dollars.

One last sign that the pharmaceutical lobby is warming to Gore: $11,000 in contributions to Gore 2000 from PhRMA, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Genentech and Glaxo-Wellcome lobbyists in the first three months of 1999, including a thousand-dollar check from Glaxo-Wellcome's Director of Government Relations on March 31. Most of this money rolled in after consumer and AIDS activists started putting pressure on Gore's office to change his South Africa policy. Instead, at the end of April, he ordered a special full review of South Africa's trade policies, further ratcheting up the pressure on Pretoria to abandon its efforts to bring affordable AIDS drugs to its people.

~~~ published by Public Campaign


see also:

Frequently Asked Questions: Why Gore Zaps??

Protesting Congressional African Trade Bill
April 21, 1999 Washington, DC

 

back to: ACTIONS Index > > >