When Josh Black quit his job as Obama's director for U.N. and Multilateral Affairs after the 2016 election (citing "growing disillusionment"), he found a sweet job as Associate Vice President for International Advocacy at Phrma, the global lobbying group for the pharmaceutical industry, which meant that he still got to work at the UN, but now he'd be advocating for giant, rapacious corporations that hold peoples' lives hostage to their profits! (speaking as a former NGO observer at the World Intellectual Property Organization from the era of the Access to Medicines treaty, Phrma are effectively public health war criminals).
Josh Black didn't want to work for the US government once Trump was in charge, but he's happy to join forces with the Trump administration's UN negotiators, who are working with Phrma to suspend the rules that allow the poorest countries in the world to manufacture their own anti-tuberculosis drugs under a compulsory license that allows pharmaceutical companies to be compensated for the use of their patents, but not to such a degree that the countries in question collapse under preventable TB epidemics.
It's a timely reminder that the Democratic establishment and the Republican establishment may have their differences on forcing women to give birth, or torturing gay people with "conversion therapy," but when it comes to protecting multinational corporations' profits at the expense of human lives, they're all on the same side (hey there, other Cory!).
Another thing we should remind ourselves of: humans have a shared microbial destiny. The US recent panics over zika, West Nile, ebola, and a host of other deadly diseases took place because diseases don't respect borders. If we allow the investor class to eke out additional billions by allowing the needless death of poor people on the other side of the world, we will also suffer, someday.
Private communications show Black relating the precise argument of his employer on TB negotiations. He also cited an article from IP Progress, a pro-intellectual property coalition that includes PhRMA, in making his case.
That article makes the claim that most TB drugs are off-patent, although this isn't accurate for newer, multidrug-resistant treatments from Johnson & Johnson and Otsuka. That talking point, however, wound up in the mouth of the spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the U.N. at the TB hearing. "We would like to take this opportunity to point out that most existing treatment drugs for TB are off-patent and inexpensive," she said, adding that the U.N. should focus on improving health systems rather than be "distracted" by compulsory licensing.
PhRMA did not make Black available for comment. An attempt to reach Black through his Facebook page was not returned.
Trump Administration Siding With Former Obama Aide at U.N. to Protect Industry Profits [David Dyen/The Intercept]