10am, 11th July 2003
CONTACT: Rosette Mutambi

Access Coalition Asks President Bush: 'Do You Want to Save Lives or Make Profits for American Pharmaceutical Companies?'

The Uganda Coalition for Access to Essential Medicines is holding a Press Conference at 10am this morning at the National Theatre in Kampala, Uganda to ask questions relating to President Bush's 4-hour visit to Uganda tomorrow (Friday) and his plans to fight AIDS in Africa.

The Coalition will publish an open letter in both the New Vision and The Monitor on the day of his visit to raise their concerns publicly. These include; asking President Bush about his effective bypassing of the Global Fund for HIV, AIDS and TB, whether he will allow the purchase of cheap and effective generic medicines to fight AIDS and why America is pushing Uganda to adopt strict patent legislation that will make it hard for Ugandans to access generic medication and easy for big pharmaceutical companies to dominate the market in Uganda.

Rosette Mutambi, the Coalition's coordinator stated: "Whilst we welcome President Bush's announcement of US$15 billion to fight AIDS The Uganda Coalition for Access to Essential Medicines is concerned that this money is coming with conditions relating more to boosting President Bush's popularity with the American pharmaceutical industry and American voters than they do to successfully fighting AIDS."

Some of the evidence for these concerns include the appointment of Randy Tobias, of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilley to head the AIDS programme, despite his having no experience with AIDS programmes and the admission by a senior figure in the development of the programme that they would seek to only buy drugs from large pharmaceutical companies. [See Notes for Editors at the end for background details]

Florence Mahoro of The National Forum of People Living With HIV/AIDS and the Coalition stated: "President Bush is acclaiming Uganda as country where the war against AIDS is being won but we would like to remind him that still 1.5 million Ugandans are HIV positive and at least 150,000 Ugandans with AIDS desperately require lifesaving ARV medicines whilst only between 10 and 15,000 are receiving them. Uganda also has the highest number of AIDS orphans in the world. The success we have had is related to excellent and open education and prevention work that has been carried out in Uganda, what we need now are lifesaving medicines not accolades."

The Coalition would like to see, among others, the following things to lend our full support to President Bush's program:

  1. The US government ceasing pressure on our government to implement a more stringent Intellectual Property Law than is required under TRIPS

  2. Universal ARV therapy becoming a reality in Uganda with available funds being used to buy generic drugs.

  3. The global community working towards correcting the world inequity in access to essential medicines so that drugs go where they are needed most.
Today, some members of the coalition will speak on these and other concerns. They include:
- Rosette Mutambi - Coordinator of Uganda Access Coalition
- Florence Mahoro - National Forum of People Living with HIV/AIDS
- Arthur Mpeirwe - Legal Counsel for the Uganda Access Coalition


Notes for Editors

The Uganda Coalition for Access to Essential Medicines is a group of civil society organizations and individuals that have come together to advocate for increased access to essential medicines. coalition is a fast expanding group of civil society organisations and individuals that has come together to advocate for increased access to essential medicines. The members' expertise ranges from human rights and legal affairs to pharmaceutical and medical matters. Members include: HEPS - Uganda, Oxfam - GB, Medecins San Frontiers (MSF), Action AID, Health Action International - Africa (HAI-A), Health Rights Action Group (HAG), National PHA Forum, Uganda National AIDS Support Organization (UNASO), Women's Treatment Action Group (WTAG), Ugandan Joint Christian Council (UJCC),Uganda Consumer Protection Association (UCPA), Kampala District Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (KADNET), Southeast Africa Trade Initiative (SEATINI), Boys Brigade Girls Brigade Uganda

Randy Tobias - a former top executive of a major U.S pharmaceutical company and major Republican contributor U.S. President George W. Bush's was a surprise pick as his global AIDS co-ordinator has drawn expressions of concern and even outrage among Africa and AIDS activists here. Bush's choice of former Eli Lilly & Co. boss Randall Tobias was announced at the White House last Tuesday, just four days before Bush's first trip as president to Africa. The nomination must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, head of Columbia University's Earth Institute and a special advisor to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on the AIDS crisis, called the appointment "surreal". "This is an emergency that requires someone who's worked in the field and knows it thoroughly. We don't need someone who raises all sorts of questions about commitment and agenda," he said.

Generics or Branded Drugs?

During a telephone press briefing last Thursday, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Dr. Anthony Fauci -- who helped design the program for Bush -- said there will not likely be any "direct purchase" of generic drugs. "It's likely we will try to get the best possible price from drug companies . . . for 'classic drugs,' where the efficacy is proven and the quality we are sure of," Fauci said.

There would still be an opening for "indirect" purchase of generic AIDS drugs, Fauci said. The Bush program may pay for local programs that buy generics on their own through a variety of sources. Generic drugs are cheaper copies of drugs that have proven efficacy, they are just as effective as branded drugs sold by big pharmaceutical companies.

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