Aim right: It wasn't much of a demonstration--those five Baylor University students holding signs on a rainy Friday outside the Abbott Laboratories offices in Irving, demanding cheaper AIDS drugs for poor nations. Still, it's something. But is it the right thing?
The demonstrators are part of the Student Global AIDS Campaign, which in recent weeks has staged similar events in other cities demanding that Abbott make the new version of its anti-AIDS drug Kaletra available at below-market prices in 117 developing and "middle-income" countries. The new Kaletra does not require refrigeration, making it ideal for poor tropical countries where refrigeration is problematic. The students also want Abbott to speed up release of the drug in other countries.
Abbott, which plans to make the drug available in the world's 69 poorest nations at an annual cost of $500 per patient--the price is about $7,600 in the States--says it's seeking to get the drug approved in other countries, but that takes time. It also will negotiate appropriate prices in "middle-income" nations.
The students in Irving brought empty pill bottles to symbolize what they say is Abbott's failure to provide affordable AIDS medication to the developing world. "They had a profit of $4.5 billion, so obviously they're making enough money," Baylor sophomore Carmen Jimenez told Buzz.
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Then there's a quote from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette from a student at a similar protest in Massachusetts in mid-April: "Abbott must be held responsible for the people who are denied life by its exorbitant prices."
Or perhaps it should be credited with the lives it saves with its exorbitantly expensive research?
The students' earnestness warms our lifelong liberal heart. Their callowness, however, pains our ass. We've spent most of the last two decades seeing our side get kicked to the curb. That whole "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs" thing? Not going to get a lot of traction with that these days. Besides, it's probably not a coincidence that a profitable company is also an innovative one. So, here's a thought: Take your demonstrations to your congressional offices. While there, ask about a Government Accountability Office report that raises questions about the holy-roller conservative effort to push one-third of African AIDS funding into pro-abstinence and monogamy programs at the expense of other more effective programs.
And remember, a good liberal is an effective liberal.