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Faith-Based Investors to Pressure Drug Companies to Provide Less-Expensive Medications, Including Antiretrovirals

March 29, 2005

An association of 275 faith-based institutional investors -- who control an estimated $110 billion in assets -- plan to introduce shareholder resolutions at annual meetings of pharmaceutical companies to pressure the companies to provide lower-cost medications, including HIV/AIDS drugs, Long Island Newsday reports. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility will call on pharmaceutical companies Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Wyeth and Gilead Sciences to "analyze the impact" of HIV/AIDS on their business practices, disclose political contributions made with corporate funds, and separate the roles of board chair and CEO to allow for independent oversight, according to Newsday. The Interfaith Center focuses its criticism on the business model of developing a small number of "blockbuster drugs," according to Newsday. According to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry in 2004 invested about $38.8 billion in research and development and about $4 billion on direct-to-consumer advertising. "They should make sure accessibility to their drugs grows, expanding their customer base," Interfaith Center advocate Margaret Weber said, adding, "Shareholders who depend on the companies' doing well have concerns. From a business standpoint, we are not convinced that the current model is sustainable." Critics of the Interfaith Center's view say that the intention of changing business models is "laudable," but the plan likely would "drag down" performance of investment funds and reduce payments to retirees, Newsday reports (Zehren, Long Island Newsday, 3/27).

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