Trillium News

Religious Investors Call On Drug Companies to Make AIDS Drugs Accessible and Affordable(Archive)

On the eve of the United Nations Global AIDS Summit, religious organizations associated with the International Health Issue Group of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) called on pharmaceutical companies to make life-saving HIV/AIDS medicines accessible and affordable in African countries, where AIDS is raging at pandemic levels. “Pharmaceutical companies are profit makers but they also have the unique mission to provide health giving medicines, often making the difference between life and death,” explained Sr. Barbara Aires of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth of New Jersey. “This is the time for pharmaceutical companies to offer the kind of leadership necessary to address this disease that afflicts so many people throughout the world and especially in Africa,” declared Rev. Séamus Finn of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a member of ICCR. “These companies can galvanize the response of other corporations, governments and organizations that want to do something to address this crying human need.” “Many ICCR members have workers in Sub-Saharan Africa and sister relationships with religious and aid institutions in Africa,” explained Ms. Patricia Zerega of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “We see first hand the ravages of the AIDS pandemic and know affordable drugs could save millions of lives.” ICCR, a coalition of 275 Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish institutional investors, including denominations, religious communities, pension funds, dioceses and health care corporations, encourages pharmaceutical companies to develop systemic and comprehensive solutions to the AIDS crisis. HIV/AIDS newly infects 4 million men, women and children each year in Africa. Most African countries can afford no more than $10 a year per citizen on all health care. The best-discounted prices for drugs to combat AIDS averages $365 yearly per person. UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan has called for creation of an AIDS Health Fund, administered by the World Bank, to create an adequate pool of money to support the efforts of countries and organizations in their response to this great suffering. “In addition to donating medicines and funds to the UN AIDS Fund,” continued Fr. Finn, “ICCR members are pressing companies to increase investment in research on new vaccines to combat HIV as well as TB and malaria and refrain from blocking access to generically manufactured drugs in countries that cannot afford the drugs marketed by patent owners.” According to Sr. Aires: “ICCR members applaud the drug companies’ decision to negotiate an agreement on the recent legal action introduced by pharmaceutical companies on the South African Medicines Act.” Sr. Aires refers to a suit 37 companies filed in South African courts, arguing that the purchase of cheapergeneric versions of anti-AIDS drugs violates their intellectual property rights. ICCR members also are challenging drug-pricing policies of pharmaceutical giants, most of which were plaintiffs in the suit. ICCR members have sponsored shareholder resolutions to Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pharmacia, Schering Plough and are in dialogue with American Home Products, Abbott, Pfizer and the British company, GlaxoSmithKline. For more information about ICCR, visit their website at : For more information contact: Regina Murphy (212) 870-2317Barbara Aires (973) 290-5402Séamus Finn (202) 281-1608