Letter from Amy Kapczynski ofthe Yale AIDS Action Coalition, to University of Minnesota President Mark G. Yudof

Amy Kapczynski
Yale AIDS Action Coalition
Yale Law School
127 Wall Street
New Haven CT 06520

April 17, 2001

Mark G. Yudof, President
University of Minnesota
202 MorH
Minneapolis, MN 55455

BY FAX:     (612) 625-3875

Re: University of Minnesota Patent on Abacavir

Dear President Yudof:

The Yale AIDS Action Coalition is a collection of students at Yale committed to the principle that essential medicines should be affordable and accessible to all who need them. Our coalition took shape around the issue of Yale's patent on the anti-HIV drug d4T. We mobilized students, in cooperation with researchers and union members at Yale, to ensure the administration responded positively to the request levied by Medicines Sans Frontieres for patent relief in South Africa. As I'm sure you are aware, Yale successfully negotiated with Bristol-Meyers Squibb to ensure that Yale/BMS patents no longer impede access to d4T in Africa. We await the legal codification of this patent relief, but believe that the Yale example serves as a strong model for the positive role that universities can play in this regard.

It is our position that universities, dedicated to the public interest, have a responsibility to ensure that their research reaches the people who need it most. The University of Minnesota, as the patent-holder for abacavir, is in a privileged position to respond to the global AIDS crisis. It is morally unacceptable that drugs like abacavir are priced out of the reach of most of the people who need them. It was surely not the intent of the University, or any of the researchers who worked on abacavir, to create a drug which serves as a monument to the global inequalities which perpetuate the AIDS pandemic.

Yale's experience with d4T provides a model for university response to demands to increase access to essential AIDS medicines. What can be done at Yale can be done at the University of Minnesota. Whether through unilateral action, or a bilateral response coordinated with GlaxoSmithKline, the University can ensure that its patent is not impeding access in the developing world. We write as a part of the growing student movement dedicated to the human rights of people living with AIDS around the world to demand that you do so.

We therefore urge the University to accede to the demands of your own student body, of treatment activists such as the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, and of humanitarian organizations such as Oxfam and MSF. This means:

As I am sure you are aware, there is intense public and media interest in this issue. Yale was thrust into the national spotlight over the question of access to d4T through prominent stories in the New York Times, the Guardian (UK) and other newspapers. We are certain that the University of Minnesota does not wish to replicate this experience, nor become the target of a national student campaign.

Should you need assistance in developing your response, we would be happy to help you. I am certain that members of our administration who negotiated the loosening of Yale's d4T patent would readily discuss their motivation and strategy with you. To that end, I suggest that you contact President Richard Levin and the University's General Council, Dorothy Robinson, who were instrumental to Yale's decision on this matter.


Amy Kapczynski
Yale AIDS Action Coalition

Cc:     Minnesota Daily
Star Tribune
Yale Daily News
Wall Street Journal

CPT Home IP and Healthcare CPT page on HIV/AIDS U. of Minnesota and Abacavir