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CalPERS pressures Glaxo on AIDS drugs

US – CalPERS, the US’s largest pension fund, is writing to GlaxoSmithKline urging the UK pharmaceutical company to re-evaluate its policy on AIDS drugs.

Staff at the Californian Public Employees Retirement Fund have voted unanimously to send a letter to GSK chief executive Jean-Paul Garnier. They want him to evaluate the company’s policy on AIDS drug access in the developing world as well as study the voluntary licensing of generic versions of GSK’s life-saving AIDS drugs.

Over the past year, the AIDS Health Foundation has testified several times before the CalPERS Investment Board, urging the fund to request that GSK justify its pricing policy in the developing world.

Commenting on the letter, Terri Ford, the AIDS Health Foundation’s director of advocacy, said: “CalPERS’ request to Glaxo concentrates on three main areas of business practices: Glaxo’s preferential pricing, their humanitarian efforts regarding HIV/AIDS, and how both of those and how Glaxo’s ongoing corporate behaviour may affect or damage its reputation and stock value.”

“While CalPERS clearly has a fiduciary interest in Glaxo’s performance, we are heartened that they also showed their humanitarian concern voting unanimously to press Glaxo on these issues,” added Ford.

The AHF, however, refutes GSK’s response that the foundation is pushing CalPERS to sell its 760 million dollars of Glaxo stock. Cesar Portillo, chief of public affairs at AHF, said that the primary focus is to make GSK’s AIDS medications affordable, and accessible, not divestiture per se.

CalPERS insists in its letter that Glaxo’s Corporate Responsibility Committee should report on the evaluation of its pricing strategies and humanitarian efforts within three months.

In a statement, GSK said it has repeatedly stated its "determination" to provide HIV/AIDS medicines on a not-for-profit basis "while maintaining its ability to sustain supply in the long-term". It did not say it would change its pricing policy.

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