Poor Nations Pick Up Tab as Obama Woos Big Pharma

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2009 8:15 AM CDT
A Brazilian customs worker prepares boxes of the generic HIV medicine Efavirenz.   (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
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(Newser) – The Obama administration is thwarting poor countries' access to affordable drugs in order to win Big Pharma's support for health care reform, according to Doctors Without Borders and other NGOs. As the Los Angeles Times reports, governments from Asia to Latin America are feeling pressure from Washington on their use of generics, even on treatments for HIV/AIDS. "It's appalling coming as it does from the Obama White House," says one activist.

While drug companies can obtain patents to prevent cheaper knockoffs, international treaties allow governments to override patents to increase access to critical medicines. Yet last spring US trade representatives lashed out at poor countries for violating patents, and some countries are already buckling; Guatemala, for one, is now paying market price for AIDS drugs. "We had hoped for change" from Bush policies, said a Doctors Without Borders worker. "However, we now view the Obama administration as no different."