E-Letter To The New York Times And Melody Peterson Re: Lifting the Curtain on the Real Costs of Making AIDS Drugs
Your article, "Lifting the Curtain on the Real Costs of Making AIDS Drugs" is one of the most informative that we have seen on the subject of AIDS drugs and Africa. Your article does an excellent job of pointing out the threat that the generic drug companies pose to the multinational corporations, and how the AIDS crisis in Africa reveals not just the depths to which the virus has spread throughout the world but also the signs of an emerging patent/intellectual property world war.
In our opinion the West and multinationals are not just worried about the competition and lower prices that go along with it in the HIV/AIDS drug market. They also are worried about the economically developing world constructing the industrial and productive capacity to become long-term players in not just the pharmaceutical business, but in manufacturing and technology fields in general.
Of course, this all feeds into the belief, held by many, that the West and economically developed world have never wanted Asia, and especially Africa and Latin America to become anything more than toilers of soil - extracting valuable minerals, precious metals and commodities from the earth. Many leaders in the developing world believe that the WTO, IMF and World Bank are the agents which help super corporations maintain their grip on key industries, which in part, gain their sustenance from inputs obtained from inside the developing world.
The problem now, is that some nations are so poor that they cannot afford the goods and services made in other parts of the world. In effect, this is the greatest challenge to capitalism, "free markets" and globalism, in that the world economy is in such bad shape that the demand for goods and services cannot be met by the supply of such, at current market prices.
And in our opinion, that is one of the key aspects to this growing AIDS controversy. Because countries can't afford the drugs offered by the West, they have taken matters into their own hands and have begun to produce their own versions of what the West offers, in an effort to save lives. The result is that industrial development takes place, or expands, in countries where it otherwise would not. The debate has also revealed the huge profits priced into the sale of AIDS drugs by the major drug companies. In essence, a national crisis is now the basis for the development of industrial capacity, as some African nations look to offer compulsory licenses to local companies who operate in industries that do not depend upon digging in the earth and exporting their products abroad.
In the eyes of many, it lays the base for nationalism at its best, where domestic demand is matched by domestic supply. In terms of economic development and growth, we think that this can be a good thing.
Interestingly, as your article makes clear, these major drug companies, in the West, who sell their products at prices that few in the developing world can afford, do not even have an established market in these poor countries. So why are they so concerned about all of this? Can it really only be about "lost profits", as some argue?
The natural effect of all of this, in terms of the gap in wealth, is that countries in the developing world who have developed industry, to even a small degree, are in a position to help their weaker "Brothers and Sisters". In this case, Brazil and India are in a position to help Africa with their epidemic, as they help themselves, to profits.
So African nations who do not have domestic capacity to address the AIDS crisis, turn to those with such capacity in the developing world. As one connects the dots, it becomes apparent that the law of supply and demand on this issue and others eventually results in the economically developing world strengthening itself, in areas that the West previously deemed to be off limits.
We envision that this chain reaction will eventually have Asia, Africa and Latin America on one side and the US and Europe on the other, in a trade war.
It will be interesting to see how all of this turns out. And we look forward to more of your coverage of this issue.
Thursday, April 26, 2001