- Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, last night blocked
a global deal to provide cheap drugs to poor countries, following intense
lobbying of the White House by America's pharmaceutical giants.
- Faced with furious opposition from all the other 140
members of the World Trade Organisation, the US refused to relax global
patent laws which keep the price of drugs beyond reach of most developing
- Talks at the WTO's Geneva headquarters collapsed last
night after the White House ruled out a deal which would have permitted
a full range of life-saving drugs to be imported into Africa, Asia and
Latin America at cut-price costs.
- "The United States has announced it cannot join
the consensus," the Brazilian negotiator, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota,
- Sources in Geneva said last night that the negotiating
strategy had come straight from the White House, with Mr Cheney seizing
the reins from America's trade negotiator, Robert Zoellick.
- Mr Zoellickng US pharmaceutical companies, told Inside
US Trade, the specialist trade magazine.
- The industry argues that it spends billions a year on
drug research and that if copycat companies can override their patents
and manufacture drugs at bargain prices, research will dry up.
- However, aid agencies lobbying on behalf of poor countries
pointed out that the cut-price drugs will only be sold in countries which
cannot afford to buy them at first-world prices. They accused the White
House of being in the pocket of big US drug corporations.
- "The joke in Geneva this morning is that they couldn't
make a decision because the CEOs of Merck and Pfizer were still in bed,"
said Jamie Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, a US lobby
group. "George Bush is arguing that diseases his own children receive
treatment for are off limits to poor children in poor countries."
- Aside from HIV/Aids, drug companies do almost no research
into the diseases on the US shortlist. It excludes diseases like cancer.
- Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited