Reuters pic of pharmaceutical company located in Basle, Switzerland. (r. a. note)
TeleSur News Posted Sun., May 15, 2016
Leaked documents reveal that a staffer on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee threatened the Colombian government over its attempts to lower the cost of an essential life saving cancer medication, the Intercept reported.
Andrea Carolina Reyes, who works with Colombia-based nonprofit Health Mission organization, repudiated the threats Saturday.
“I would ask [Hatch] to consider that we’re talking about people’s lives and this needs to mean something to him,” she told the Intercept. “In Colombia we really have health constraints. There’s people, they have no access to anything. They live hours from health institutions and they don’t have even the cheapest medicines.”
The medication known as Iimatinib is prescribed to patients who suffer from leukemia and gastrointestinal tumors at costs a whopping US$15,000 annually — almost twice the average Colombian’s income.
In efforts to reduce the price, Colombian Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria announced last Aprial that Colombia would begin production of a generic drug may reduce the cost by an estimated 30 percent.
However, according to a leaked letter between two U.S. and Colombian officials, Everett Eissenstat of the Senate Finance Committee International Trade Counsel, warned that any attempts to lower the price of the medication would cost the South American country hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid.
“This case could jeopardize the approval of the financing of the new initiative ‘Peace Colombia,” Andrés Flórez, deputy chief of mission at the Colombian Embassy in Washington, D.C. wrote in a letter addressed to Maria Angela Holguin of Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to the letter, Eissenstat stated “if the Ministry of Health did not correct this situation, the pharmaceutical industry in the United States and related interest groups could become very vocal and interfere with other interests that Colombia could have in the United States.”
The Senate Finance Committee is run by powerful Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who has close links to the the health drugs industry and who received a US$750,000 donation from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America his re-election campaign in 2012.