CalPERS Nixes Anti-AIDS Drug Report Request

December 16, 2003 ( - The California Public Employees Retirement System's (CalPERS) investment committee narrowly defeated a measure to send a sternly worded letter to GlaxoSmithKline Plc requesting a report from the company of its licensing of anti-AIDS drugs.

The proposal, defeated by a 6-5 margin, would have asked the drug maker to meet with the pension fund to discuss a ruling by the South Africa Competition Commission regarding GlaxoSmithKline’s pricing of anti-AIDS drugs.   The investment committee made its decision following testimony by attorneys representing the drug maker, AIDS activists, and CalPERS inve stment managers, according to a Reuters report.

While AIDS activists want the $153.8 billion fund to flex its financial muscle to force the hand of the drug makers in making the AIDS fighting drugs more affordable in developing countries, investment managers for the pension fund expressed concern about being caught in the middle of the long-running dispute between activists and the drug maker.

CalPERS has been called on to join the fight for affordable AIDS fighting prescription drugs by a number of organizations, including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.   Earlier this month, a CalPERS spokesman cited by Reuters said the pension fund planned to send a letter to GlaxoSmithKline requesting the report.   If the letter had been sent, it would have marked the second letter this year thatCalPERS has sent to the drug maker at the urging of the Foundation.

Earlier this year, the Foundation, one of the groups trying to pressure GlaxoSmithKline to drop its AIDS drug prices in the developing world, praised California lawmakers for approving Senate Concurrent Resolution 11 (See  CA Lawmakers Call for Pension Funds’ AIDS Effort Support ). The resolution includes a call for CalPERS and other public retirement plans such as the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) to jump into the AIDS’ group’s fight.  

According to the resolution, the retirement funds’ boards should initiate and back shareholder resolutions to “…impel pharmaceutical companies to develop and implement a policy, in consultation with the appropriate United Nations agencies and independent nongovernmental organizations, to provide HIV and AIDS drug treatments in a manner that would make those treatments affordable to those infected in lesser-developed countries.”