- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

Generic AIDS drugs and public welfare

Martin Krause argues that compulsory licensing of inexpensive generic AIDS drugs decreases access to medicines (“Compulsory social responsibility,” Commentary, Tuesday).

Using Brazil as an example, he asserts that forcing such firms as the U.S.-based Abbott Laboratories to lower their prices will reduce their subsequent investment in the research and development of new drugs. What the author ignores is that a large portion of pharmaceutical companies’ research and development costs, including those of Abbott’s AIDS drug, Norvir, are funded by federal taxpayer dollars — not the paltry profits from Latin American AIDS patients.

In 1980, Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act, allowing inventors to retain ownership of drugs developed with federal grants. This act provides economic incentives for drug corporations to produce medicines, such as AIDS drugs, that are less profitable but enhance public welfare. These federal grants now finance 70 percent of R&D expenditures.

Should pharmaceutical companies be allowed to overcharge AIDS patients for drugs developed with our taxpayer dollars? Abbott is not waiting for the answer. The company increased Norvir’s price by 400 percent in December 2003 and increased overall profits to $3.6 billion by 2004. Meanwhile, 5.5 million AIDS patients in need of immediate treatment await the generic drugs that could save them from an untimely death.

JESSICA LOVAAS

Williamstown, Mass.

Democrats disappointing in Roberts vote

It is laudable that the “Gang of 14” provided bipartisan support for the nomination of John Roberts as the chief justice. It is also, as Sen. Joe Lieberman noted, regrettable that he did not receive overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle.

I suppose that had he kept a snail darter in a fish bowl on his desk, learned the spotted owl songbook and hugged a tree every morning on the way to the appellate court where he now sits, the Democrats in opposition might have reconsidered.

Nevertheless, he has all the makings of a fine jurist, and the majority voting to confirm has served the country well.

PAUL BLOUSTEIN

Cincinnati

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, said: “Our decision on whether or not to confirm [Judge John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice of the Supreme Court] should be a decision made above partisanship,” and he lamented the “excessively partisan” atmosphere in which the nomination fight plays out (” ‘Gang of 14’ backing Roberts,” Nation, Wednesday).

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said that his party “absolutely” should be prepared to filibuster President Bush’s next Supreme Court nominee, if he selects someone unacceptably ideological. Mr. Dean said this after Mr. Bush selected for chief justice a man, Judge Roberts, who has been widely hailed and who has received broad bipartisan support. Mr. Dean, who has said, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for …” and who has called Republicans “evil,” “corrupt” and “brain-dead,” now finds it necessary to continue his belligerence even before Mr. Bush announces his choice for the seat being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Can’t the chairman have the self-restraint and dignity to restrain his pugnacity? He has forfeited his credibility, so that he is not worthy of belief if he declares Mr. Bush’s choice unacceptably ideological.

The Democratic Party faces a choice that is fateful for itself and for the nation: Whether the party will be characterized by the bitterly rancorous Mr. Dean or the rationally moderate Mr. Lieberman. Will the real Democratic Party please stand up?

NATHAN DODELL

Rockville

Akaka bill doesn’t mean U.S. withdrawal

Rubellite Kawena Kinney Johnson’s article “Political tsunami hits hawaii” (Commentary, Sept. 18) intentionally pushes the fear and panic button of some Americans but does little to address actual fact. Her argument is a compilation of mismatched agendas and spurious relationships.

Let us be clear, the Akaka bill will in no way affect national or global business in Hawaii, civil or criminal jurisdiction held by the United States, or private ownership of land.

Much has been shown that attests to the economic benefits of the bill, from expanding markets in Hawaiian culture to newly created demand for eco/agri/and cultural tourism.

As a state, Hawaii will gain economically from passage of the bill and gain much more through the protection and revitalization of native culture and beliefs.

The purpose of the bill, far from the unfeasible idea the author claims, is to provide a process for reorganizing a Native Hawaiian Governing Entity, not re-creating the “communal land tenures” cited in Public Law 103-150.

There is no mention in the bill of the United States giving up ceded lands, military lands or the ridiculous claim of giving up “related Hawaiian areas in the Pacific connected through tradition.” The spurious connections she makes between S. 147 and the island of Kaho’olawe (which is being held in trust by the state, not Protect Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana), student protests in the 1960s and the University of Hawaii Hawaiian Studies Center are unfounded and merely put in to elicit an emotional reaction from conservatives — a tactic that their intellect should refute.

Hawaii’s governor and legislature, as well as the Department of Hawaiian Homelands and all four mayors, are in strong support of this bill because they, too, realize the benefits not only to the Hawaiian people but to the state of Hawaii.

Passage of the bill in no way signals a withdrawal of the United States from the Pacific. In fact, it signals the exact opposite. It says the United States truly cares about the relationships it holds with those who were here before and it desires to take an active and benevolent role in assisting its indigenous peoples.

CLYDE W. NAMU’O

Administrator

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Honolulu

Oil rationing?

Richard Rahn has it exactly right (“Price-gouging?” Commentary, yesterday), but never underestimate the propensity of our elected officials to do the wrong thing in time of crisis, and, of course, with recent events that is an understatement.

Having lived through the Jimmy Carter-invented gas shortage of 1980 and the attempt to ration by a set of rules rather than price, my greatest fear is that it will be repeated. I remember long lines and fistfights at the pump. There may have been rationing by license plate number and even/odd days as I recall.

Itmadenodifference whether you were a doctor trying to get to the hospital, a stay-at-home parent or a retiree out to top off your tank — the rules ignored all of this.

The government rationing system ignored price, and substituted time and public inconvenience and safety (or lack of it), all the while ignoring each individual’s need as related to the price they were willing to pay.

Gasoline and oil from which it is refined will run out some day, but the current shortage has a purely political origin. As pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, the return on investment for the refining industry in the last 10 or 15 years has been about 50 percent of that of the companies in the S&P 500.

If the oil industry could make big money on building refineries, it would have done it already. And, of course, the contrast between gas prices and the public’s perception of the moral rightness of being able to sell a home for whatever the market will bear, and reap a windfall, made all the more possible by the $500,000 capital-gains exclusion, is just stark public hypocrisy.

SAMUEL BURKEEN

Reston


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