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The Ministry of Health and Welfare should void the retail price of 23,045 won per pill and stop benefiting the patent right of the drug companies only!

For the world that respect lives instead of patent rights, the leukemia patients' group and Gleevec Joint Committee receive our full support on their sit-down strike.

Source  :  BASE21

23,045 won per pill. the Ministry of Health and Welfare have decided and announced on the price of Gleevec on January 21.

Gleevec is a type of leukemia medication that prominently slows down the outbreak of the disease and eventually helps the patient to live a healthy life when it is taken for a long period of time. These pills are recommended from 4 to 8 pills a day. Norvatis Corp., the developer of the Gleevec, however, has requested The Policy Consideration Council for Health Insurance that the new medication be sold at 25,000 won per pill, discouraging anticipated patients with leukemia.

The settled price of leukemia drug caused 4 of the affiliate organizations -- Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice, Korean Confederation of Trade Union, Junnong (National Farmers Association) and Federation of Korean Trade Unions -- to secede from The Policy Consideration Council for Health Insurance as an action of protest on December 2. Two groups, Leukemia Patients' group and The Joint Committee For Solving the Gleevec Problem and Improving Public Health Care's (Gleevec Joint Committee), have also gone on a sit-down strike in front of the National Human Rights Commission building since January 21. They protested against the newly decided price of the drug and demanded for a lower price and a medical insurance coverage on the drug.

According to the price settled by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, leukemia patients are inevitable to pay from 3 million to 5 million won every month to afford Gleevec. The ministry, however, insisted that the new system will bring down the cost that a patient will have to afford to 20% for medical examination and treatment. But this plan is also showing that leukemia patients on their early stage, patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) or juvenile chronic myelogenous leukemia are not eligible for medical insurance coverage. This means that 70% of those in need of Gleevec is not covered by the medical insurance system. For 2 years have the leukemia patients fought against the regulations to lower the price of Gleevec, to expand the range of group who are covered by insurance system and to demand for a compulsory licensing of the medication just to delay their deaths. And the local ministry has gave in to the monopolistic pharmaceutical firms while the affiliated groups have seceded.

The fabricated definition of the intellectual property is well used for helping pharmaceutical capital firms such as Norvatis Corp. to raise the drug price up to 25,000 won whereas the mill price is estimated only up to 845 won.

There are about 100 thousand to 200 thousand patients suffering from leukemia and gastric cancer which tells that such diseases are relatively rare among cancerous patients, yet Gleevec has raked up astronomical figures of 893 billion won in sales over the last two years since Gleevec was first introduced. The reason that this medication for a rare disease can make nearly trillion won since 2001 is because it be monopolizing the pharmaceutical market by a patent rule. By securing the patent law for 20 years, firms with patent rights earns more than anyone can imagine.

India, however, has a different way of protecting the intellectual property. Various pharmaceutical firms would go under development for up to 2 years for a generic drug that has the same effect and the stability and sell the drug for 2 dollars. Some are able to find for less than a dollar.

The leukemia patients are pleading for these generic drugs to be imported. Taking down part of the patent restriction for an easier access to Gleevec will also suit the patients just fine. If that cannot be done, they are asking for a compulsory licensing for a generic drug developed in Korea but the intellectual property right is barricading such operation. In fact, the Korean government have been alluding to trade relations and delaying the permission for compulsory licensing for an entire year. In the United States and Canada, on the other hand, compulsory licensing have been recommended in cases with anthrax vaccines. A compulsory licensing is carried out commonly in the developed countries. The pharmaceutical capitals are actually blocking the compulsory licensing in developing countries using trade relations as lame excuses.

When a patient cannot take the medication in time the drug is no longer doing its function. The multinational drug companies including the Norvatis Corp. is producing a "merchandise" to pursuit their own profit instead of developing a "medication" for the sick. The conflict over the price of Gleevec displays clearly that a consumer with no money cannot buy the goods. The Gleevec is treated as any goods in the world thanks to misuse of patent policies.

Not only is the policies concerning the health and medication system important in putting the drugs back into the place where it belongs -- in the hands of the patients that need it, but a principle idea that public health is prior to patent rights must be understood. Gleevec is a medication for the patients not a means for corporate profit. Price of Gleevec should be lowered, medical insurance system should cover the leukemia treatments and compulsory licensing should be carried into effect.

- Lower the price of Gleevec! Insure all leukemia treatments!
- Unless the patients can use drug, such is worthless! Allow compulsory licensensing of Gleevec!

January 27, 2003

Korean Progressive Network, Jinbonet

2003 / -0 / 2-
BASE21 News Desk

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