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Nearly a dozen advocacy groups began a series of protests against Novartis this week for using “lies, threats and bribes” to pressure developing countries not to pursue measures to widen access to medicines.

The groups are targeting Novartis because the drug maker figures prominently in an intensifying effort by the U.S. Trade Representative and pharmaceutical industry trade groups to lean on the Colombian government to revamp its policies toward pricing and patents.


The Colombian health minister last year angered Novartis by unilaterally cutting the price of the Gleevec cancer drug after a long-running dispute over price. He also threatened to issue a compulsory license, which countries may grant to another entity to copy a patented medicine without the consent of the drug maker that owns the patent. This right was conferred in a World Trade Organization agreement. (Here is a primer).

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