Multinational Monitor

SEP 1999
VOL 20 No. 9


AIDS Drugs for Africa: Grassroots Pressure Overcomes U.S. Industry's "Full Court Press" to Block South Africa's Affordable Medicine Program
by Robert Weissman

Pills, Prevention and Profits: The Case of Tamoxifen
by Amy Allina and
Cindy Pearson

The Ties That Bind: Industry Sponsorship of Patient Groups
by Lisa Hayes


The Politics of Drug Safety
an interview with
Dr. Sidney Wolfe


Behind the Lines

Moving Gently on East Timor

The Front
Too Big to Debar? - Kathie Lee Goes on Defense

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Book Notes
Big Business, Poor Peoples: The Impact of Transnational Corporations on the World's Poor, by John Madeley - Reclaiming America, by Randy Shaw

Names In the News


Taming the Drug Lords

Aids Drugs for Africa: Grassroots Pressure Overcomes U.S.-Industry "Full Court Press" to Block South Africa's Affordable Medicine Program

by Robert Weissman

In September, the U.S. government announced that it will stop bullying South Africa to abandon efforts to make essential medicines available to its population. The announcement represented a bitter pill for the pharmaceutical industry, which has relied on the U.S. Trade Representative to act as its proxy in pressuring countries around the world to abandon policies that the drug companies believe to be contrary to their interests. The reversal of U.S. policy came as a result of a strategically savvy campaign conducted by AIDS activists in the United States.

Two million people die annually from AIDS-related causes, the overwhelming majority in the Third World, and the number is skyrocketing. Drug treatments that enable many people with AIDS in industrialized countries to survive are priced out of reach of all but a tiny number of HIV-positive people in the Third World. When South Africa and other Third World countries have sought to take measures to reduce the price of AIDS and other essential medicines, the U.S. government has threatened trade and other sanctions to block them. MORE >>

Pills, Prevention and Profits: The Case of Tamoxifen

by Amy Allina and Cindy Pearson

Tamoxifen has been in use for treatment of advanced breast cancer since 1977. It is a potent synthetic hormone that works by blocking the effects of estrogen in breast tissue so that it stops the growth of certain types of breast cancer tumors (those which grow by feeding on estrogen). Doctors prescribe tamoxifen as treatment to women who have had surgery to remove breast cancer in order to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence of the cancer. For women who have passed menopause, tamoxifen can reduce the risk of recurrence by 30 percent. More recently, it has also been used to prevent recurrence in premenopausal women.

Because it is less toxic than chemotherapy, tamoxifen offers significant benefits as a breast cancer treatment drug. But tamoxifen is not harmless. Common side effects include hot flashes, vaginal discharge or irritation, irregular menses and apparently depression. Tamoxifen use has also been shown to cause endometrial cancer, blood clots and eye damage. MORE >>

The Ties that Bind: Industry Sponsorship of Patient Groups

by Lisa Hayes

Following in the wake of the last decade's proliferation of patients' groups, there has been a surge in pharmaceutical industry funding for these organizations.

Patient groups frequently begin as small-scale, grassroots organizations created by people with a disease who wish to reach out to others with the same condition in order to share experiences and to provide emotional support and information. They frequently act as advocates for better health care and are typically voluntary organizations. Such patient groups can provide a valuable channel of understanding and expertise in obtaining appropriate medical care. But that is not why drug companies are funding them with increasing generosity. MORE >>

The Politics of Drug Safety

An Interview with Dr. Sidney Wolfe

Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe has been the director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group (HRG) since 1971. Since 1995 he has been an adjunct professor of internal medicine at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. His awards include receiving the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1990. HRG promotes research-based, system-wide changes in health care policy and provides advice and oversight concerning drugs, medical devices, doctors and hospitals and occupational health. It has been a major player in the successful efforts to ban or provide warning labels on numerous drugs and medical devices. Major HRG publications include Pills That Don't Work, Over the Counter Pills That Don't Work; Worst Pills/Best Pills, "Unnecessary Cesarean Sections: How To Cure A National Epidemic" and monthly newsletters entitled Health Letter and Worst Pills Best Pills News. MORE >>



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