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Civil society calls on Novartis to end 'bullying tactics' and respect countries' legal rights to make medicines more affordable

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March 1, 2018, New York, NY – Treatment Action Group (TAG) rises in solidarity with 11 civil society organizations around the world in opposing the menacing and obstructive tactics by the pharmaceutical giant, Novartis, which seeks to undermine countries' affordable access to medicines. On the eve of its Annual General Meeting activists held public actions at Novartis' offices in the UK, South Africa, and Malaysia to decry the corporation's 'threats, lies, and bullying' that impede countries' rights to use legal tools within the international Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

Most recently, the former CEO of Novartis threatened Colombian authorities in a leaked letter to prevent the government from considering a compulsory license or price controls on imatinib (Glivec), a leukemia treatment. The cancer medicine has been priced at US$15,000 in Colombia, or twice the average citizen's income, and negotiations to lower the price have been unsuccessful. As an alternative, a compulsory license would enable the Colombian government to produce or sell a generic version of imatinib without the consent of the patent holder, Novartis, while paying a royalty as compensation. The Colombian government previously received pressure by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee for considering a compulsory license, threatening to withdraw funds for the nation's peacebuilding process. Novartis also has challenged other countries, such as India for the more stringent patentability criteria embedded in its national law.

"Recent shenanigans by Novartis are indicative of the toxic, corrupt pharmaceutical industry which put profits over public health and deny patients around the globe from getting treated with the most effective, life-saving medicines. Novartis's new CEO, international organizations, and UN agencies need to step up to reject these murderous tactics and commit to protecting countries' legal rights to use TRIPS flexibilities," Bryn Gay, HCV Co-Director, TAG.

"Novartis continues its pattern of targeting the right of nations to exercise TRIPS flexibilities to address local public health crises and uphold the human right to health of their citizens," said Suraj Madoori, TAG's U.S. and Global Health Policy Director. "We urge action, resistance to Pharma, and support governments attempting to expand access to life-saving medicines." 

Read the press release