Mining Executive Chosen Over Drug Industry Candidates for Global AIDS Fund Board to ‘Skirt Controversy,’ Wall Street Journal Reports
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has selected a mining company executive to occupy the corporate seat of its board in an effort to "skirt controversy" and potential "conflict-of-interest" issues surrounding candidates from the pharmaceutical industry, the Wall Street Journal reports. Goran Lindahl, deputy chair of Anglo American PLC, one of the largest private employers in South Africa, was selected to sit on the fund's board. According to internal fund documents and those involved in the selection process, controversy likely would have "erupted" had a pharmaceutical executive been named as a voting member of the board. Some business groups and non-governmental organizations said they were "worried about the symbolism" of appointing a drug industry representative, and some activists "fretted" that the fund could be "exploited" by drug companies attempting to sell medications to developing countries if a pharmaceutical executive was selected. However, Crispus Kiyonga, head of the fund's transition team, said last summer that drug companies "must be centrally involved" with the fund. The fund's board will also include representatives from "donor and recipient nations," health advocacy groups and philanthropies, the Journal reports. The "short list" of candidates for the corporate seat included Merck and Co. CEO Ray Gilmartin, McKinsey & Co. Managing Director Rajat Gupta, Baxter International CEO Harry Kraemer, GlaxoSmithKline Chair Richard Sykes and Medtronic Inc. Chair William George.
The fund so far has raised $1.7 billion in pledges and is expected to announce later this month that it is accepting applications from developing nations. About $700 million is expected to be available for distribution this year. However, "divisive issue[s]" facing the board remain to be settled, including whether the fund will purchase HIV/AIDS drugs and if so, whether generic drugs will be bought. The transitional group managing the fund has recommended that the fund buy AIDS drugs, as well as drugs to treat TB and malaria. While the fund has said it will adhere to all treaties and pacts regarding patents, the Journal reports that the U.S. government's "threat" to break patents to purchase the antibiotic Cipro to treat those exposed to anthrax through the mail "has made the issue of buying generics more thorny" (Zimmerman, Wall Street Journal, 1/21).