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  • Thursday, October 20, 2005

    Property rights (or how to let a planet die to make a buck)

    From Democracy Now!:

    [T]he U.S. is currently trying to buy large quantities of [Tamiflu], but this is to make up for the delinquency of the Bush administration, which has failed to build adequate stockpiles of Tamiflu. Tamiflu is a anti-viral developed at a hospital, an American hospital and basically public sector or nonprofit sector in medicine, then was developed into a pharmaceutical by a small company in California and now is controlled and monopolized by Roche, the giant French-based pharmaceutical corporation. It manufactures Tamiflu at a single factory in Switzerland. So this anti-viral, which has now become probably the most sought after drug in the world, is an utter monopoly of a single corporation, confined right now to one plant in Switzerland.

    A few months ago an a meeting of the World Health Organization, when Thailand and South Africa raised the question, the urgent need to be able to produce Tamiflu generically in their own countries and for the third world, the United States and France blocked the debate. They actually shut down the debate. And essentially, what's happened is that two deals have been cut. The Bush administration has got Roche to agree to open a plant next year to manufacture Tamiflu in the United States, although Americans should be aware we won't have anywhere near an adequate stockpile of this anti-viral until 2007, that we're essentially naked until then.

    At the same time, the World Health Organization has abandoned support or criticism of Roche's monopoly, in turn for the donation by Roche of three million courses of Tamiflu to the W.H.O., which proposes to use this to douse an outbreak if that is possible, which most researchers doubt. So in a way the health of the whole world right now is held hostage to the corporate property rights of Roche, supported by the United States and other governments like France.


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