Thursday, November 09, 2006

Stanford University Response

Robert L. Joss, Dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, answered the Open Letter to Stanford University requesting a public inquiry regarding Dr. McKinnell (ex-Pfizer CEO) fitness to serve the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Advisory Council.

Find a copy of his letter here

And today, I responded to Mr. Robert Joss with the letter below:

TO: Robert L. Joss
John L. Hennessy
Members of the Stanford Board of Trustees
Henry A. McKinnell

Dear Dean Joss:

I would like to thank you for your letter of September 22 answering the Open Letter to Stanford University of May 18, 2006 signed by Stanford alumni, professors, staff and students, requesting a public inquiry to consider the appropriateness of the continued service of Dr. Henry A. McKinnell on the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Advisory Council.

I understand that the Stanford Graduate School of Business invites alumni/ alumnae with important responsibilities to serve on the advisory council on a purely voluntary basis and, as we acknowledged in our Open Letter, Dr. McKinnell, as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Pfizer Inc., seemed appropriate for such a position.

However, the honor to serve Stanford University should only be conferred on those who evidence responsibility and ethical conduct in their professional lives. Dr. McKinnell’s improper use of a legal process and his decision to personally sue government officials to discourage legitimate actions of a developing country makes him inappropriate for such a service and contradicts the school’s mission to “create ideas that deepen and enhance our understanding of management and to develop innovative, principled, and insightful leaders who change the world”.

Stanford University and you, as the Dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, should reasonably take an interest in the corporate social responsibility and ethical fitness of the members of its governing and advisory bodies. A code of ethics could be an appropriate start.

I would like to thank you for taking a personal interest in this case and asking Dr. McKinnell, Pfizer’s ex-CEO, about Pfizer’s lawsuit in the Philippines.

Dr. McKinnell has provided an incomplete and misleading explanation of Pfizer's legal actions in the Philippines. Dr. McKinnell writes “…PITC threatened to import generic copies of Norvasc before the patent expires next year….” This does not fully describe either the nature of the dispute, nor Pfizer's response.

Pfizer’s continuing litigation in the Philippines is not about generics. The Philippines Government only sought to import samples of the drug in order to secure registration, so it could be imported for sale once the patent expired, giving the citizens of the Philippines access to more affordable drugs. This practice, referred to as "early working" of the patent, is widely permitted in developed countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and most members of the European Union. Indeed, before the lawsuit, early working was permitted in the Philippines under common law, the approach used by the United States before the US law was changed to provide for a statutory exception to patent rights for this purpose (the "Bolar" amendment). Further, early working of the patent for purposes of drug registration was held to be legal under WTO rules in a 2000 case involving Canada, and is endorsed by the World Health Organization as an important measure to protect consumer interests.

Pfizer's response was not only to sue the Philippines to block this common and widely endorsed practice, but to sue two government officials in the Philippines in their personal capacity -- a tactic that is widely seen as intimidation, not only in the Philippines, but across the region. Indeed, as our previous letter indicated, this was the primary complaint against Mr. McKinnell. Mr. McKinnell is fully aware of this, but chose not to respond substantively to this point.

Thank you again for taking the time to answer our Open Letter. I remain at your disposal if you require more information. I share your wish that any interested members of the Stanford community should be familiar with the views of all parties here and I therefore encourage you to broadly share this response.


Judit Rius Sanjuan
Staff Attorney
Consumer Project on Technology
1621 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009 USA