Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Industry Opposition to Affordable Stem Cell Therapies Deplorable

Two advocates for affordable access to stem cell therapies developed with California taxpayer funds have deplored the California biomedical industry's opposition to such efforts.

State Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, one of the chief advocates in Sacramento for stem cell research, said she was not surprised by the opposition of the California Healthcare Institute (see item below).

Here is her complete statement, which she released following an inquiry from the California Stem Cell Report:
“I am disappointed, but not surprised. It appears CIRM is responding to opposition from biotech companies at the expense of working Californians who are footing the bill for California’s embryonic stem cell research.

“The biomedical industry has demonstrated all along that they value increased profits over making treatment affordable to Californians.

“We urge advocates and ICOC members who have fought to bring equity and affordability to California’s taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research program to continue their battle to make these therapies available to all who need them.”
Joe Araya Tayag, a program manager at the The Greenlining Institute, a group that advocates for minorities, also responded to a query from the California Stem Cell Report concerning the legal opinion written on behalf of the California Healthcare Institute.

Here is the text of Tayag's comments, which are not available elsewhere on the Web:
"It would be shameful for the biomedical industry to refuse to commercialize state-funded products at a discount. California’s priority should be to ensure that public monies support the development of affordable life-saving therapies.

"Amidst widening minority health and healthcare disparities, Prop. 71 promises to quell the growing costs of the state healthcare crisis through the development of cures rather than the maintenance of illnesses. To fulfill this promise, the affordability provisions for the low-income and uninsured in the CIRM’s IP policies must be upheld. Input from underserved minority communities—who will be most affected by these provisions—must elevate their participation in protecting these policies.

"Over 20 percent of Californians are uninsured and of those, over half are Latino. Also, considering that over 72 percent of Medi-Cal program enrollees are people of color, these provisions will directly guarantee that the state’s minorities have a better chance of affording the promised cures and medical diagnostics.

"While the policies may be more clear, they are certainly not redundant. Policies that are setting world-precedence for future partnerships between biomedical industry and the state must continue to laud the importance of access along with innovation.

"California is in the position to take a leadership role in the drafting of IP policies that best extend these provisions of access and affordability. Although being in support of the often referred-to mantra of 'faster cures,' Californians should draft policies that ensure the promotion and development of 'fair cures.'"
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