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January 19, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-01-19

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, January 19, 2005


~iyeShdiijau& dI tothedaily@michigandaily.com

SINCE 1890

Editor in Chief
Editorial Page Editor

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority
of the Daily's editorial board. All other pieces do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

It only got down
to 28 below, and that's
nothing. That's no
big deal."
- Christine Mackai, the town clerk
of Embarrass, Minn., on the tempera-
ture last Thursday. The temperature
in Embarrass reached negative 54 degrees
on Monday, according to CNN.com.

3S 140a' c..,. f..
$c~c~o .\ $ u O Ni4r"

Public health, not profits

In a perverse manifesta-
tion of corporate greed,
pharmaceutical com-
panies and their allies in
government have once again
placed profits ahead of public
health. Under pressure from
domestic as well as inter-
national drug manufactur-
ers, the Indian Parliament is
poised to approve a government order that would
effectively ban the production of all generic medica-
tions, including those that treat HIV/AIDS.
Classified as "antiretrovirals," these anti-HIV
drugs have dramatically improved the life expec-
tancy, as well as quality of life, for individuals
afflicted with the HIV virus. In the past, cocktails
of ARV drugs were prohibitively expensive; a
yearlong course of treatment would run upward of
$12,000. However, the advent of generic knock-
offs, many coming from India, reduced the cost
to under $400 per year. In many poor African
nations, this dramatic fall in price enabled govern-
ment health agencies to administer the life-extend-
ing drugs at a very low cost. In 2003, in an effort
to address the exploding AIDS crisis in southern
Africa, the Clinton Foundation brokered a deal
between the Republic of South Africa and a hand-
ful of generic drug manufacturers to provide ARV
treatment at $140 per patient per year.
As reported by The New York Times, generic
pharmaceuticals in India have become tremen-
dously successful because national patent laws pro-
tect the production pathway used to synthesize the
drugs, not the actual drugs. However, as The Times

reports, efforts to bring India in line with the World
Trade Organization's agreement on intellectual
property have led the government to order statutory
changes. Generic drug companies would have to
receive specific permission to make a generic drug,
while name-brand manufacturers would be able
to "evergreen" - extend their patents by simply
changing the form, such as from capsule to syrup, of
their medication. These changes would cripple the
generic drug industry, but India's Parliament, which
must approve the order before it goes into effect,
does not seem likely to protest.
ARV treatments, while not cures, can extend
the lifespan of HIV-positive individuals by decades
when properly administered. The assault on Indian
generic drug manufacturers may protect sizeable
profits for name-brand pharmaceuticals, but at what
social cost?
The magnitude of the public health crisis posed
by HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa defies com-
prehension. In South Africa, where the government
has been notoriously ineffective at combating the
spread of HIV, about 25 percent of the adult popula-
tion has tested positive for the virus. The implica-
tions are dire. Considering that the HIV/AIDS life
expectancy without ARV treatment is less than a
decade, South Africa is facing the imminent loss of
a huge portion of its workforce and a massive eco-
nomic contraction. More disturbingly, if ARV treat-
ment is not expanded dramatically, almost one out of
every 10 citizens in South Africa will be orphaned
within the next decade. The South African social
service system is prepared neither financially nor
logistically to accommodate such a huge influx of
parentless children.

The pharmaceutical industry is by far one of the
most profitable of all the major industries. This is in
no small part due to government patent protections.
Rapid advancements in drug technology ensure that
pharmaceuticals are almost always obsolete before
their patent protections expire; thus, drug companies
virtually always charge monopoly prices for their
products. Of course, arguing that drugs should have
no patent protections is absurd. The short-term right
to charge monopoly prices ensures that pharma-
ceutical companies have incentives to innovate and
further the frontiers of medicine. An equitable bal-
ance between protecting intellectual property and
the future of pharmaceutical research while secur-
ing care and treatment to individuals afflicted by a
spreading pandemic must be established.
Canada appears ready to implement a respon-
sible generic drug policy that protects pharma-
ceutical companies and simultaneously addresses
the HIV/AIDS crisis in the developing world. In
May 2004, the Canadian Senate approved a bill
amending the country's patent laws to allow the
government to bypass patent protections and
allow pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce
and export generic drugs for use in developing
nations. This protects profits in richer nations
where patients can afford name-brand ARV drugs
while enabling generics to be distributed to the
vast majority of HIV/AIDS sufferers who cannot.
Assuming Canada follows through on its legisla-
tion, it will set a fine example for the developed
- and in India's case, developing - world.

Momin can be reached
at smomin@umich.edu.


Students should
oppose Social Security
Social Security is probably not something
that most students think about. Retirement is a
long time away and even then you hope that you
will have been successful enough not to depend
exclusively on Social Security benefits, especially
because you are now investing in an education
from one the country's best universities. So the
recent talk about President Bush's plan to priva-
tize Social Security may seem more relevant to
workers without college educations and people
about to retire. However, students concerned with
how we as a society treat those needing assistance
should oppose the privatization of the program.
Social Security is based on the idea that we
have a moral obligation to care for the elderly,
disabled and disadvantaged who cannot take
care of themselves. Bush's plan would turn this
idea on its head and would turn something called
Social Security into "personal risk" by having
workers put their payroll taxes in the stock mar-
ket. Considering that the program was created
in response to the biggest stock market crash in
history, it's pretty stupid to make the program

rely on the market when it is supposed to protect
you from the unreliability of the market. Making
investments is fine, but in the event of an eco-
nomic downturn, people shouldn't have to spend
their golden years in poverty, which was the
case before Social Security was in place. Private
accounts would leave little for individuals to live
off of if they make bad investments.
Social Security is not about you saving money
for yourself. It's about ensuring financial secu-
rity now for those who cannot work so that
when you are in that position you will be pro-
vided for as well. Privatization undermines the
social responsibility and financial security of all
involved. Since its inception, Social Security has
kept millions out of poverty by providing a guar-
anteed safety net and protecting them from the
whims of an unpredictable economic system,
not forcing them to suffer the consequences.
In the coming weeks, Bush will embark upon
a massive campaign to convince the public that
Social Security, a program that practically pays
for itself, is going bankrupt, not because of the
soaring deficits, tax cuts or the surplus he gave
away to the rich, but because of some as of yet
unknown reason. Don't let him mislead the pub-
lic yet again into more mistakes.
David Guzman
LSA senior

The Michigan Daily welcomes letters
from all of its readers. Letters from University
students, faculty, staff and administrators will
be given priority over others. Letters should
include the writer's name, college and school
year or other University affiliation. The Daily
will not print any letter containing statements
that cannot be verified.
Letters should be kept to approxi-
mately 300 words. The Michigan Daily
reserves the right to edit for length, clarity
and accuracy. Longer "viewpoints" may be
arranged with an editor. Letters will be run
according to order received and the amount
of space available.
Letters should be sent over e-mail to
tothedaily@michigandaily.com or mailed to
the Daily at 420 Maynard St. Editors can be
reached via e-mail at editpage.editors @umich.
edu. Letters e-mailed to the Daily will be given
priority over those dropped off in person or
sent via the U.S. Postal Service.


An unaffordable education


I always dreamed of going to a prestigious
school and chatting with goofy academic types in
cozy coffeehouses. Instead, I ended up at South-
west Missouri State University. This was a huge
disappointment for me, but I tried to accept it for
the sake of my family, which could not afford to
send me anywhere better.
I first learned of the University of Michigan
when I visited it with my then-boyfriend over the
summer. Though it was too late to apply as an
incoming freshman, I wanted to go there. How-
ever, I expressed uncertainty as to whether it was
economically feasible, seeing as my parents are
not rich. They have cars that need fixing, are still
trying to pay off the house they bought the same
year I was born and hope to retire in the next 15
years. Regardless of what the government may
believe, paying roughly $37,000 per year for me
to attend college is impossible for my family. My
boyfriend still insisted that if I wanted to go to
the University, I could find a way. I was skeptical

college despite being over 500 miles away. I started
thinking of myself as a future Wolverine.
Once my allegiance to was established, I began
work on the money problem. With no savings, I am
financially dependent on my parents for college,
but they refused to tap their savings or risk their
retirement for a loan. Filled with defiant determi-
nation, I came up with a complex financial plan
including scholarships, financial aid, part-time and
summer jobs, as well as medical studies for me and
the dreaded loans. Then, to explain my devotion to
the University and my plan to pay for it, I created a
108-slide PowerPoint presentation.
I finally showed my PowerPoint presentation to
my father and during slide 25 he suddenly stood
up from the computer and walked away. My
single-minded determination wasn't yet ready to
die, but then the Office of Financial Aid informed
me that as an out-of-state transfer student, I didn't
qualify for scholarships or financial aid. Now I
would have to convince my father to sign for an
even bigger loan.
My dad, now 50, has been working since he

The simple truth is that I will never be able
to afford the University, even as a graduate stu-
dent. It isn't just minorities and the poor who
can't afford a school like the University, a school
that claims to desire racial, ethnic and economic
diversity on campus and yet has outrageously
high tuition. I am from a middle-class family and
because I wasn't fortunate enough to be born in
Michigan, I will never know what it is like to be
at a school like the University.
Doing well in high school means nothing. It is
money that really determines where you will find
yourself in life. I can do well in college, but in the
end, it is the kids with the connections, the cash,
and the college degrees from a swanky schools
who will be tomorrow's leaders. The anti-affirma-
tive action advocates talk about how applicants
may or may not have been denied admission
because they were white, but it is often debatable
as to why someone is rejected. What about the
people who are accepted but are unable to attend
because of tuition while people with money who
are less serious and qualified do? Who is mourn-

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