Movilización internacional en apoyo a Colombia: caso imatinib

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El mes pasado, la ONG suiza Declaración de Berna,  publicó una carta enviada por el entonces CEO de Novartis al presidente de la República, doctor Juan Manuel Santos, en la cual le expresa su “decepción” con el resultado de las discusiones que se dieron con el Ministro de Salud Alejandro Gaviria, durante el proceso de la declaración de interés público de Glivec® (imatinib).

En la misma carta el señor Jimenez le expresa al Presidente que una declaración de interés público, incluso sin licencia obligatoria, debilitará la bien conservada imagen de Colombia por ceñirse a las reglas y por ofrecer los incentivos necesarios a la innovación.

Letter Novartis CEO to Colombian President, 2016-06-08

A new leaked letter signed by the CEO of Novartis himself sheds additional light on the aggressive power play carried out by the Swiss pharma giant against the Colombian authorities to prevent a compulsory license* being issued for its leukemia drug Glivec (imatinib).

Si bien esta carta fue enviada al presidente en junio de 2016, hasta ahora (2018) la opinión pública tiene acceso a ella. Esta carta es una evidencia más de las múltiples presiones que tuvo que enfrentar el país al tomar una decisión en pro de la estabilidad del sistema de salud y consecuentemente en pro de la salud de las ciudadanas y los ciudadanos de Colombia.

Como respuesta a esta carta, y a otras acciones de presión sobre países como Malasia, India, Tailandia, Rusia, Turquía  y Chile, la sociedad civil nacional se alió con la sociedad civil internacional (del Reino Unido, Suiza, Estados Unidos, entre otros países), para protestar y movilizarse públicamente en contra de este tipo de prácticas por parte de las grandes corporaciones multinacionales farmacéuticas.

A través de esta coalición enviamos una carta al nuevo CEO de Novartis Vasant Narasimhan en la que le detallamos las diversas acciones que ha emprendido la compañía para presionar a estas naciones y asegurar sus beneficios comerciales, y le solicitamos asegurarse de que Novartis bajo su batuta, tomará este asunto en serio y se abstendrá  de usar estrategias que pongan en riesgo la vida de las personas.

En la plataforma de la ONG Global Justice Now se generó una petición online a través de la cual se consiguieron cerca de 7.000 firmas que respaldaron la solicitud realizada al CEO de Novartis.

Stop big pharma bully tactics

The bullying tactics used by pharmaceutical company, Novartis, to threaten the Colombian government in 2016 were exposed in a recently leaked letter.

A continuación la carta enviada, el comunicado de prensa y algunas notas que cubrieron la movilización.

Agradecemos sinceramente la solidaridad de estas organizaciones aliadas (Treatment Action Group, Global Justice Now, Ifarma, Access to medicines, Act Up London, 100 percent life network, Treatment Action Campaign, Public Citizen, Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group, StopAIDS, Just tratment) a cada una de las personas involucradas en la movilización. También a aquellos que bajo temperaturas extremas salieron a las calles a protestar y a exigir un trato justo con los países de medianos y bajos ingresos. Es la solidaridad lo que nos mantiene con esperanza y esperamos encontrarla en todos los actores involucrados en el acceso a medicamentos a nivel mundial, finalmente es esto lo que más se necesita.


Novartis must end ‘bullying tactics’ over life-saving medicines

Global protests ahead of Novartis AGM in Switzerland tomorrow Call for new CEO to clean up company following scandals in Colombia and Greece Thursday 1 March 2018 – Swiss multinational Novartis today faced international calls from an alliance of health campaigners for an end to its ‘threats, lies and bribes’ towards governments over access to life-saving medicines, on the eve of the company’s AGM in Basel, Switzerland (1).

CArta CEO Novartis


Nearly a dozen advocacy groups began a series of protests against Novartis this week for using “lies, threats and bribes” to pressure developing countries not to pursue measures to widen access to medicines.

The groups are targeting Novartis because the drug maker figures prominently in an intensifying effort by the U.S. Trade Representative and pharmaceutical industry trade groups to lean on the Colombian government to revamp its policies toward pricing and patents.

The Colombian health minister last year angered Novartis by unilaterally cutting the price of the Gleevec cancer drug after a long-running dispute over price. He also threatened to issue a compulsory license, which countries may grant to another entity to copy a patented medicine without the consent of the drug maker that owns the patent. This right was conferred in a World Trade Organization agreement. (Here is a primer).

That tussle became a flashpoint in the debate over licensing, however, when staffers from both the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and the U.S. trade rep met with Colombian embassy officials in Washington, and warned that support would be withdrawn for a free trade agreement and $450 million in backing for a peace initiative between the Colombian government and Marxist rebels.

Last month, the U.S. trade rep urged the Colombian government to overhaul various practices for making medicines available. The message was conveyed in a letter prior to a March 8 meeting to discuss membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental group of three dozen countries that was created to stimulate economic progress and world trade.

How a society gala was used to sell young-blood transfusions to baby boomers desperate to cheat death

More recently, the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America asked the Colombian health minister to scrap a move designed to unilaterally lower the prices of hepatitis C drugs or, eventually, issue compulsory licenses. And last week, BIO wrote the U.S. trade rep to complain that Colombia does not adhere to “global standards” for approving biosimilars and creates an “unlevel playing field.”

These moves prompted the groups to complain in a letter sent Thursday to Novartis chairman Joerg Reinhardt that the company used “underhanded tactics that put patient lives at risk.” And they urged him to ensure the new president, Vasant Narasimhan, “does not repeat his predecessor’s tactics of threatening and bullying countries to stop using their legal right under international trade rules.”

To support their contention, they pointed to a letter written nearly two years ago by former Novartis chief Joe Jimenez to the Colombian president to object to the moves by the health minister.

“Governments have the legal right to implement the flexibilities enshrined in the (WTO) agreement,” the letter stated. “Yet countries that have tried to implement any (of the permissible) flexibilities have faced enormous pressure by pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis, and some developed country governments to stop such use.”

The groups also noted Novartis was implicated in a bribery scandal in Greece for allegedly bribing senior politicians – eight former ministers and two former prime ministers – in order to fix prices and boost sales to hospitals. A report sent by Greek prosecutors last month to the parliament alleged Novartis paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes, costing the government about $3.7 billion between 2006 and 2015. The company has denied the accusations.

As part of their campaign, the advocates protested outside Novartis offices on Thursday in the U.K., Malaysia, and South Africa, and plan to do the same at the annual meeting of Novartis shareholders scheduled to be held on Friday in Basel, Switzerland, where the drug maker is headquartered. The groups include Treatment Action Group, Public Citizen, Mision Salud, and Global Justice Now.

A Novartis spokesman sent us this: “We strive for a constructive exchange with governments and other stakeholders. Our goal is to improve outcomes for our patients worldwide, while at the same time ensuring incentives for research and innovation. The intellectual property (IP) system is essential to Novartis’ mission of improving and extending people’s lives.

In our research-intensive field, the IP system provides a proven, practical means to attract the massive investments needed to conduct and sustainably finance the complex R&D that leads to life-saving and life-enhancing medicines and cures.”

The spokesman also reiterated that Novartis “fundamentally disagrees” with the decision by the Colombian health minister to enforce a so-called Declaration of Public Interest, which was needed in order to cut the price and, possibly, pursue a compulsory license. The drug maker also argued that it twice lowered the price of Gleevec and generics are available.

As far as the company is concerned, “there are no access issues to Gleevac,” which is “on the national formulary in Columbia and is fully reimbursed.” The drug maker, by the way, filed a lawsuit to stop the health minister from proceeding.

MSF Access Campaign on Twitter

As @Novartis shareholders meet today in Switzerland, we demand an end to big pharma bullying countries like #Colombia, #Malaysia, #India from taking legal steps to make lifesaving meds affordable! #NovartisGreed #DropTheCase #HandsOffOurMeds

MSF Access Campaign on Twitter

@Novartis .@Novartis should stop threatening #Colombia for wanting to increase access to affordable generic versions of lifesaving cancer drug #imatinib (aka #Gleevec #Glivec). #NovartisGreed #DropTheCase #HandsOffOurMeds

MSF Access Campaign on Twitter

@Novartis Hey @Novartis and big pharma, countries should be allowed to make lifesaving medicines affordable and available for their people! #NovartisGreed #DropTheCase #HandsOffOurMeds

TAC on Twitter

After locking us out the gates, we handed this letter to @Novartis who said they would respond in 7 days #NovartisGreedKills

TAC on Twitter

We stand in solidarity with our comrades in Colombia who are facing pressure & threats from @Novartis who put profit over Colombian lives #NovartisGreedKills

TAC on Twitter

Recently leaked letters sent from @Novartis threaten the Colombian government over trying to reduce the price of imatinib, a leukaemia medicine, in 2016. #NovartisGreedKills



Novartis, Drop the Case!

For seven years the drug company Novartis refused to back down on its legal case to stop the production of affordable generic medicines in India. MSF with others ardently opposed this attack ..



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