In a display of just how far the U.S. government is willing to go in protecting Big Pharma, it was revealed that a Senate staffer hinted that peace deals in Colombia could be threatened if the country challenges a patent on an expensive cancer drug.
The controversy centers around a leukemia drug called Gleevec, made by Swiss-based Novartis. Prices have increased 10 percent or more every year, causing heavy strain on health care systems in middle-income countries such as Colombia.
Novartis, which made $4.7 billion from Gleevec last year, has enjoyed a patent monopoly on the drug for ten years. The patent ended on February 1 in the U.S., but will remain in Colombia until 2018. While a generic version of the life-saving drug already promises to bring prices down in the U.S., Colombia is held hostage by the continuing foreign-based monopoly.