Pharmaceutical company Abbott decided to sue PLWAs group Act Up-Paris in response to the April 26th, 2007 netstrike we organized against the drug manufacturer : the first time a drug company has used legal action against us. Yet this strategy will force Abbott to justify its criminal decisions, which are depriving PLWAs in Thaïland of the company’s new drugs, effectively sentencing them to death.
Last December, Thaïland issued compulsory licenses on several drugs, one of them patented by Abbott. By licensing particular drugs, the Thai government can produce or import less expensive, generic copies of the medicines, allowing the Thai health system to vastly increase the number of patients it treats.
Even though the Thai government’s decision explicitly respects international agreements on intellectual property, Abbott decided to retaliate in a brand new way: by refusing to register its new drugs-including the heat-stable Kaletra, a second line drug, needed by PLWAs in the case of therapeutic failure-in Thailand. Abott is effectively sentencing Thai AIDS patients to death.
Abbott’s decision went against international agreements on intellectual property (TRIPS) signed by the government members of the WTO. But the very same agreements don’t provide an appeal process to the WTO in the case that a private industrial group decides to ignore them. Only governments are accountable to the WTO. Though illegitimate and criminal, Abbott’s decision is not legally questionable.
The WHO and, for instance, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, supported the Thai government’s decision. Numerous doctors and researchers denounced Abbott’s retaliation and called for a boycott of the company’s products, a very rare act by health workers. Among the shareholders, a strong minority urged the company’s leaders to step back and to withdraw their criminal decision. Without any result.
To defend their lives, the only option for PLWAs was to publicly challenge the company. On April 26, the day before the General Assembly of Abbott’s shareholders, a network of Thai PLWAs called for an international day of action, supported by NGOs around the world.
Act Up-Paris called upon activists all over the world to participate in a netstrike. Hundreds, even thousands of people in France, Thailand, the U.S. and elsewhere, repeatedly visited Abbott’s website in order to force a slowing down of its servers.
Three weeks later, Abbott filed a complaint against Act Up-Paris. The laboratory wants us to be condemned for “service denial.” Should this be accepted by the court, we could be sentenced to very high penalties. The fine could reach $50,000, not including liabilities, a communique release of the verdict (paid communication) and legal expenses. These expenses would be incredibly damaging to our organization and are a drop in the bucket compared to Abbott’s profits. This legal action is clearly an attempt by the laboratory to silence Act Up-Paris.
The legal article Abbott is using against Act Up-Paris stipulates that it is forbidden to limit the access to a website, unless the defendant acted under a “legitimate motive”. Is defending patients’ lives against profit illegitimate? The call for a boycott issued by Thai patients, public declarations made by the WHO and officials in the French government, as well as political actions around the world supports the legitimacy of our motive.
By suing us, Abbott will have to prove that the lives of thousands of Thai people is not legitimate enough a motive to criticize publicly a medicine company. The lawsuit the laboratory is bringing against us, patients, will reveal to the world the very obscenity of Abbott’s actions in Thailand.
We request from Abbott’s leaders to:
Stop threatening countries which are doing nothing more than resorting to their rights, in agreement/compliance with international treaties.
Withdraw their decision to put to death thousands of HIV+ people in Thailand.
Take back their complaint against Act Up-Paris.
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