Project 21’s Nedd Joins Other Religious Leaders at UN Public Health Conference

Project 21 member Council Nedd II, a bishop in the Episcopal Missionary Church, is returning from Geneva, Switzerland, where he helped lead a non-governmental organization (NGO) delegation to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property. Council was there to defend the intellectual property rights that currently protect patents on prescription medications.

Activists are seeking WHO approval to circumvent these patents, saying the needs of the poor and afflicted outweigh a drug company’s intellectual property rights.

Council and three other members of the international clergy — Bishop Emeritus Albilio Ribas of Sao Tome & Principe (Roman Catholic), The Rev. Fr. Anthony Ojeh of Asaba, Nigeria (Anglican, like Nedd) and Pastor William Daldoum of the Nations Upon the Rock Church in Sudan (Pentacostal) — have signed a statement of principles regarding faith, health care and the protection of individual property rights (the patent on medicines, in particular). They see patents and the protection of them as vital to ensuring new and better health care advancement in the future.

These men — who have engaged in health care-related missionary work in African countries that include Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Sa Tome & Principe, Angola, Sudan and Nigeria — decry the claim that “patents deny patients access to medication” and instead want to promote “the importance of intellectual property rights to advancements in developing world health care.”

To follow is their statement:

Whereas it is being said in certain quarters that patents deny patients access to medication, we the clergy gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, based on our hands on experience in our public health missionary activities, particularly in Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Sa Tome & Principe, Angola, Sudan and Nigeria hereby declare and affirm that:

The most important issue here is keeping people alive and healthy.

Drug counterfeiting which is prevalent in Africa and particularly in Uganda, Ghana, Sudan and Nigeria denies patients access to life saving medicines because of the abysmally poor and dangerous quality of the counterfeit drugs.

Scientific and technological research and development are very important in guaranteeing the development and production of new quality life saving medications and in effect opens the door for patients to access quality medication.

Counterfeit and inferior drugs worsen and complicate ailments and the condition of patients. In very many cases, counterfeit drugs destroy lives and deplete needed human capital. Patients should be protected from counterfeit drugs.

Patents are a driving force for incentives in drug research and development. If researchers insist on being rewarded through patent protection for their inventions and discoveries, so be it. The important thing is that lives are saved thereby and not destroyed. The laborer after all is deserving of his pay.

Considering that all human beings are individually gifted, and if it be necessary to preserve patents as an incentive, monetary or otherwise to encourage further scientific and technological discoveries in quality life saving drugs, then we should do it. More especially as we cannot at this point rule out the possibility of the emergence of new diseases that could threaten human existence in the future, we need to preserve incentives to encourage an individual to use his/her gifts for the benefit of others especially in matters of human health. After all our civilization does not encourage us to force a man to use his natural gifts for the benefit of his fellowman. Such an individual may refuse his gift, and if he does so, that is a matter between him and his maker.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is a Miracle Healer. He tells us in the book of John 14:12 that “The things I do ye also can do them.” The effect of this is that it is in our power to be miracle healers through gifted scientists by preserving the instrument that encourages them to find solution to our health problems. Patent protection seems to effectively do that. The starting point is to discover the solution such as the drug and then ensure that the patient is able to access the solution. First the solution must be available, and then we ensure access.

In light of the above, patents actually do save lives. The issue is to ensure that people are kept alive and healthy.

Counterfeit and fake drugs do not save lives. They destroy lives. Existing medicines must be made available to those in need of them, wherever they may be. We must not allow bad politics to take precedence over the safety of human lives and good health today and tomorrow.

God Bless. Signed this 30th Day of April 2008,

The Most Rev. Albilio Ribas, Bishop Emeritus of Sao Tome & Principe

The Right Rev. Council Nedd II, Bishop of the Chesapeake, EMC

The Rev. Fr. Anthony Ojeh, Asaba, Nigeria

Pastor William Daldoum, Nations Upon the Rock Church

For more on this issue, I recommend a New Visions Commentary, “Underserved and Overlooked,” by Council Nedd that Project 21 published in February.

To contact author David Almasi directly, write him at [email protected]. David is executive director of the National Center for Public Policy Research. He provides staffing support to Project 21.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.