Day: April 12, 2007

The Carrboro Citizen on the Smoking Ban

The Carrboro Citizen is a new local paper (less than a month old at this point in time!). It has a well written summary of the current state of North Carolina’s anti smoking bill.

The Carrboro Citizen

The fierce behind-the-scenes battle continues over legislation to protect people from deadly second-hand smoke at workplaces, restaurants and bars. Despite his best efforts, House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman has been unable to convince a majority of House members to support his comprehensive plan to protect the public health.

The opposition has coalesced around a soundbite in this case masquerading as a philosophy, that somehow protecting workers on their jobs is an infringement of private-property rights. Holliman points out that he owns a small business that complies with all sorts of government regulations, including fire safety inspections every year.

The regulations are designed to protect the health and safety of workers, just like Holliman’s ban on smoking in the workplace. No one is arguing that businesses should be able to refuse the fire inspections and let people who object find other jobs, but that’s what the smoking ban opponents are saying.

Yes, seems obvious to me, but as I may have mentioned before, property rights is just the catchall excuse here, following the money trail leads to the tobacco industry and to various other entrenched interests represented (as the article points out) by the National Association of Tobacco Outlets! Chris Fitzsimon who wrote this article makes the same point.

Here’s a nugget tucked away in the middle of the article:

The latest version of Holliman’s proposal would ban smoking at all restaurants and most bars that serve food, exempting only establishments that function almost entirely as bars and only admit customers above age 21. The bill would not affect smoking at workplaces, but would overturn the 1993 law that prohibits local governments from passing their own anti-smoking regulations.

This means that private “clubs” like the dead mule (a smoke filled horror that I frequent!) would be exempt. On the other hand, the Chapel Hill and Carrboro local governments could act anyway to ban smoking in these clubs, which to me is a compromise I could live with!

The Citizen is off to a good start. I have only seen their website (and blogs), looking forward to picking up a copy of the paper version.

Abbott Drops AIDS Drug Price in response to Thailand's hardball.

Moral of the story, you have to play hardball with the drug companies. Use your power as a sovereign country. You are a market to them, their threats to stop selling their drugs in your country cannot be taken seriously because if the drug is made unavailable in your country, that gives you even more right to make it yourself (or better, buy it from India!). I mean what are they going to do, invade you? The worst you will get is a scolding and lecture from the U.S ambassdor on patents and free trade, just ignore it, or better still, protest outside the embassy!

Chemical & Engineering News: Latest News – Abbott Drops AIDS Drug Price

Abbott Drops AIDS Drug Price, move follows compulsory licensing decision by Thailand

Jean-François Tremblay

Abbott Laboratories will drop its price for Kaletra, a protease inhibitor used to treat AIDS, to the equivalent of $1,000 per patient per year in 40 developing countries.

The move, facilitated by the World Health Organization, is apparently Abbott’s response to a decision by Thailand earlier this year to resort to compulsory licensing of Kaletra, a practice that reduces health care costs in a way that pharmaceutical companies view as patent infringement (C&EN, Feb. 5, page 11).

Following Thailand’s decision, Abbott announced that it would stop selling Kaletra and other patented drugs in Thailand, a move that the nongovernmental organization Doctors Without Borders called “a major betrayal of patients.”Abbott had already been under fire for not supplying Kaletra to several other low-income countries.

The price of $1,000 per year per patient, Abbott says, is 55% less than the average price at which the drug is now sold in the 40 countries. The company says it wants to increase drug affordability while “preserving the system that enables the discovery of new medicines.

Compulsory licensing is a perfectly legal option underlined by TRIPs (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) in response to national emergencies (AIDs is a national emergency, isn’t it?). More importantly, governments in poorer countries really should invoke this provision as much as they can. Because every time they invoke it, they make big pharma come to the bargaining table.

$1000 per patient per year is still a lot of money, though, I would encourage Thailand to play even more hardball!