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Protesters Take Aim at Pfizer

By W. S. Wang

A rally against Pfizer Tuesday began with speeches at the Stratton Student Center and culminated in a march to the company’s Discovery Technology Center at 620 Memorial Drive.

“Drop the Debts. Drop the Prices. Don’t Be a Part of the AIDS Crisis!” was the crowd’s battle cry. The protest date occurred on the international day of action against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Prague.

Many protesters carried signs, some with grim statistics about the AIDS crisis in Africa and others decrying Pfizer’s greed. One standout was a large propped up monster representing the evil of the IMF and the World Bank hovering over much of the world.

As the crowd marched to Pfizer under the watchful eyes of police officers, chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, corporate greed has got to go” and “The AIDS crisis/ Who do we thank/ The IMF and the World Bank!” were mingled with the echoes of “Solidarity Forever” and the occasional honking of car horns from supporters.

The Boston-based Jobs for Justice, part of the Boston Global Action Network, together with BankBusters and other organizations decided to focus on Pfizer, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. They have charged that Pfizer has used its patent on Fluconazole, a life-extending drug for AIDS patients, to monopolize the market and keep the prices up to $18 per pill.

The company reportedly has worked to block African countries’ efforts to get around high prices by developing generic versions of drugs. Although Pfizer justifies its actions by claiming that it has intellectual property rights upheld by the World Trade Organization, it was later found by the United Nations that the WTO’s rules are “contradictory to human rights.”

Jonathan Caine, a biologist attending the protest, said that “Pfizer’s behavior today is no different than other major thefts of national resources in history.” He pointed to Pfizer’s “theft of genes” as publicly funded research that has resulted in economic monopoly.

Ken Johnson, another protester who said he has witnessed first-hand the severe problem with AIDS in Africa, warns of “a ghost continent if drastic actions are not taken.” He urged the activists to “overcome their cynicism with the American government and not overlook the ballot box.”

Andrea Lee of the Greater Boston NOW called this entire movement against big business and the World Bank “a common struggle” because “these international economic conglomerates are great deterrents to the struggle to end women’s poverty and violence against women.”

Another speaker representing the senior community painted a bleak picture of seniors in America, saying that “the elderly have to decide between food, rent, or medicine because of the greed of pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer.” He said that seniors often have to make trips to Canada for much cheaper medicine because of the powerful monopolies within the states.