"I've never been on the opposite side of the NAACP," said Dr. Alicia Fernandez, an associate professor of clinical medicine. "I've been a big admirer of the SEIU" labor union. "But now these drug companies are going to the good guys for cover." In particular, the SEIU affiliate International Association of EMTs and Paramedics (IAEP) recently sent two letters to its members promoting Pfizer's cholesterol drug Lipitor. "IAEP leadership stands behind LIPITOR as the lipid-lowering agent of choice," read one letter, which was signed by IAEP director Matthew Levy and printed on IAEP letterhead, but with a Pfizer copyright at the end. IAEP stated it "does not endorse specific drugs," but refused to say whether the union has any financial relationship with Pfizer. In a similar case, the NAACP's New England branch accused Medicare of racism for refusing to cover the heart medication BiDil. (NitroMed, BiDil's manufacturer, has donated $1.5 million to the NAACP.) BiDil is a combination of two generic drugs that won "patent protection for treating African-American patients with heart failure." Fernandez believes NitroMed's "real goal" is "selling an expensive 'new' pill made from two cheap old ones." Meanwhile, she warned, "the argument over coverage of BiDil deflects attention from the real issues involved in health disparities."
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