The trade association for the pharmaceutical industry reportedly has threatened to cut off support to a Center for Strategic and International Studies program in retaliation for a CSIS symposium that featured a report recommending that patent protections be relaxed to reduce the cost of life-saving drugs for poor nations.
Sources at the think tank said a representative of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America informed Miguel Diaz of the CSIS South America project that PhRMA would no longer support his group's research. The trade group gave $10,000 this year to support the project.
The trade group reportedly was angry over a Feb. 26 symposium on intellectual property rights sponsored by the CSIS biotechnology program, which receives no PhRMA money. The meeting featured a report by the United Kingdom Commission on Intellectual Property Rights. The high-profile study group recommended last year that the developed nations set up patent and pricing mechanisms to lower drug prices in developing countries.
The commission also urged poor nations not to commit to intellectual property rights systems that do not benefit them -- a move that, if adopted, would substantially weaken current patent protections and might cut into the profits that drug companies make from those medicines.
CSIS officials declined to talk about their discussions with PhRMA. They did say they have not yet received official word from the group that it has decided to cut funding.
"It is premature to say anything concrete about the situation," Diaz said. "I will not comment on an informal conversation that I had with a representative of PhRMA or any other corporate supporter."
PhRMA spokesman Bruce Lott said the organization is reviewing support to CSIS and other think tanks. "This is budget time of the year for us," Lott said. "We're just reviewing relationships with various organizations a part of our normal budget process. I don't know what conversations were or were not had with CSIS."
Some at CSIS and elsewhere were puzzled by what they saw as PhRMA's overreaction to the symposium. While the group might be expected to take exception to the commission's recommendations, the program also featured Washington attorney Jeffrey P. Kushan, an expert on intellectual property law and a critic of the commission's report.
Kushan defended existing patent protections as necessary to encourage companies to invest in developing new drugs. During the CSIS session, he characterized the commission's report as "misleading," "inaccurate" and based on "incorrect assumptions about patents and prices of pharmaceuticals."
The symposium, which drew 60 participants to CSIS headquarters at 8 a.m. on a snowy Wednesday, was organized by Anne G.K. Solomon, director of the biotechnology and public policy program, who expressed surprise at PhRMA's reported threat to cut funding. "We were all kind of shocked when this happened," Solomon said.
THINK TANK HUMOR: Oh, and you thought think tankers were dry, mumbling folks. Ha! Laugh-parched staffers at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace came in one morning last week to find a listing of "Coalition of the Willing: Contributions to War Effort" in their mailboxes, complete with "official" U.S. Department of State header.
Here's an excerpt of the countries and their "donations":
Lithuania: Giving up the Bomb: What's in it for You? A Foreign Ministry Documentary.
Denmark: 721,999 boxes of Her Majesty's Butter Cookies.
Georgia: Eduard Shevardnadze will resign to serve as interim Iraqi president.
Portugal: 23,339 tons of fresh calamari for Iraqi POWs.
Uganda: Offer of asylum to Saddam Hussein.
Netherlands: 290,000 tons of cannabis for medical purposes only.
Singapore: 50 copies of government film, Spanking for Freedom, plus 432,201 used Apple computers.
Honduras: 374,000 "We are NOT a Banana Republic!" T-shirts (In Arabic: Ihna mish Jumhouriyya Bananniyya!)
Nicaragua: 20 special lectures from leading government officials on "How to Get the Most Out of Elliot[t] Abrams" [Abrams, currently the director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, was a major proponent of aid to the Nicaraguan contras during the first Bush administration. He later pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts during Iran-contra, and was pardoned by Bush senior.]
Palau: Still thinking about it.
Laughs were courtesy of visiting scholar Daniel Brumberg, a Georgetown University professor working on CEIP's Democracy and Rule of Law Project.
PEOPLE: Frank J. Cilluffo has left his gig as special assistant to the president for homeland security to join the Center for the Study of the Presidency as counselor. Earlier, Cilluffo worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, formerly headed by current CSP president David M. Abshire.
The Institute for International Economics has hired trade economist John Bradford Jensen as deputy director. Jensen comes from a post as director of the Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau. Outgoing deputy director Howard Lewis III will resume his post as an IIE visiting fellow.
The Heritage Foundation has hired Marc Miles to lead the Center for International Trade and Economics, replacing Gerald O'Driscoll, who has returned to the Cato Institute. Miles, a former econ professor at Brandeis and Rutgers, comes from Laffer Associates.