Hour-Long Program Focused on Institute’s HIV/AIDS Treatment Efforts in Developing Countries
President an CEO of the International Intellectual Property Institute (IIPI) Bruce Lehman was the featured guest on Talk to America, the respected international call-in talk show of the Voice of America, on Friday, October 27th. The hour-long program, hosted by award-winning journalist Carol Pearson, was broadcast live with callers from Russia, India and Africa. The archived program will soon be available on the Internet <www.voa.gov/talk>.
The genesis for the discussion was IIPI’s soon-t-be-released report on pharmaceuticals for treatment of HIV/AIDS in Africa. “The issue of intellectual property protection is an important one in Africa’s AIDS pandemic,” states Lehman, a former Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks. “Our report will be the first of its kind to clarify the perceived patent problem in providing treatment to these incredibly needy people in South Africa.”
The report – to be released prior to World AIDS Day, December 1,2000 – will include a comprehensive review of all relevant national legislation in selected countries, model legislation and recommended strategies for providing treatment to the most needy individuals.
During the show, international callers asked questions and raised issues associated with delivery of medical assistance to those with HIV/AIDS in developing countries, focusing on the issue of intellectual property, the role of US and international pharmaceutical companies, current legislation – both local and international – as well as the role of international organization in coordinating a massive program of assistance.
During the interview IIPI President Lehman stated: “One of the things this Institute has been doing is looking at exactly what the [patent] situation is and we have done a survey in Africa, with the results to be published soon, and its shows that actually, the pharmaceutical companies in most cases have not even applied for patent protection in these markets.
“Unfortunately,” Lehman continued, “I think patents have been used as a smokescreen by many people, when really it isn’t the patent system that is the problem.” The issue is mostly a financial one, he continued, noting that there is a need for developed countries to make substantial funding available to support a campaign against the epidemic, saying, “[U]ntil they do that, it doesn’t make any difference whether these drugs are patented or not patented, they aren’t