Letter from Asia Russel, Health GAP Coaltion, to University of Minnesota President Mark G. Yudof.

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

April 12, 2001

Re: abacavir and the University of Minnesota

Dear Mr. Yudof:

The Health GAP Coalition is an organization of US-based activists working to eliminate the disparity in access to treatment between people with HIV/AIDS in poor and wealthy countries. We comprise AIDS activist, public health, fair trade, and human rights organizations.

The crisis in lack of access to HIV treatment in poor countries is resulting in staggeringly high rates of preventable death. At least 90% of the world's 35 million people with HIV do not have access to affordable HIV medication, in large part because the necessary medications are too costly. Drug regimens responsible for adding years of life in wealthy countries are completely out of reach of the those who need them most—the poor.

The University of Minnesota has the distinction of developing abacavir, an important antiretroviral drug marketed by GlaxoSmithKline as Ziagen. This drug, like the 17 other antiretrovirals currently available in most wealthy countries, is priced out of reach of the poor people whose lives could be extended by it.

Surely you will agree this is an unacceptable situation: a medication developed primarily with public money, at a publicly funded university is now inaccessible to poor people with HIV/AIDS. We are certain that the University of Minnesota has the authority to rectify this situation, rather than acting as a complicit party.

We therefore urge that the University take the necessary steps to allow generic manufacture and/or importation of abacavir in each of the poor countries where current abacavir patent monopolies are blocking drug access.

It is not enough that the University of Minnesota contributes to the community through its scientific research; we feel yours and other institutions have a basic obligation to ensure that life-extending medications developed within your walls are not kept from millions of dying people because of the profit-driven motives of institutions such as GlaxoSmithKline. We stand in support and solidarity with the student activists and their allies in Minnesota who are carrying this demand forward.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience regarding this matter.


Asia Russell

ACT UP Philadelphia

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