Sunday, May 13, 2001

Tranquil ADB
meeting boosts
image as Pacific
meeting place

The issue: The Asian Development Bank's
meeting here was a success, free of the violence
that some had feared from demonstrators.

THE PEACEFUL GATHERING of more than 3,000 delegates to the Asian Development Bank gives a boost to Governor Cayetano's goal of transforming Hawaii into a major meeting place for Asia and the Pacific. The state emerged as a tranquil and well-equipped setting that may be ideal for international organizations wanting to avoid the violent demonstrations that had beset the World Trade Organization in Seattle, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City and other meeting sites in the past year and a half. That, at least, is the image that was created.

ADB Conference Logo The immediately tangible costs and benefits of the meeting are debatable. Police estimated before the meeting that security measures would cost $4 million to $7 million, but Mayor Jeremy Harris said during the meeting that he doubted the cost would exceed the lower figure. The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau predicted three and a half months ago that the meeting would pump $17 million to $20 million into the state's economy. During the meeting, the bureau's benefits estimate dropped to $11 million.

Of greater importance than those precise dollar amounts was the meeting's effect on Hawaii's potential for future meetings of large organizations.

"Demonstrations and riots, which disrupted the WTO in Seattle and the conferences in Quebec and Davos, will not happen here," Cayetano assured delegates to the meeting. Indeed, soon after his speech on Wednesday, 400 to 600 demonstrators, depending on whose count was to be accepted, marched peaceably through the city and stopped in front of the Hawaii Convention Center. The atmosphere was so calm that Tadao Chino, the ADB's president, felt it safe enough to go outside to talk with the demonstrators and receive their list of grievances.

Unfortunately, the tranquility cannot be attributed entirely to Hawaii's remote location or to the aloha spirit. The Asian Development Bank is a financial institution, not an international trade organization, so did not attract the militant element of the anti-globalization coterie that caused destruction in Seattle, Davos or Quebec City. That distinction seemed to have escaped law-enforcement agencies, led by the FBI, that put little or no stock in the demonstrators' pre-convention statements that their protest would be peaceful.

Many of the security precautions that appeared excessive for the ADB meeting may have been appropriate for a world trade meeting. Even then, the city and state went overboard in seemingly trying to prevent any demonstration in public areas until the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii filed a lawsuit in federal court. Unreasonable -- and probably unconstitutional -- restrictions were quickly lifted in response to the lawsuit.

The meeting undoubtedly was a valuable experience to which city and state officials can refer for future meetings of international organizations. They would make a mistake, however, by congratulating themselves for a successful week and concluding there is no need to change their ways for ensuring security the next time around.

Asian Development Bank

A new drug brings hope
for cancer patients

The issue: Hope springs as new drug
treatment for leukemia emerges.

A NEW ANTI-CANCER drug that has proven effective in treating a rare form of leukemia may be a breakthrough in treatment of other types of cancer. It has generated lots of hope.

More than 90 percent of 530 patients in the first phase of chronic myelogenous leukemia saw their cancer go into remission within the first six months of taking the drug called Gleevec. In the second phase, more than 90 percent of 230 patients responded positively, and in 63 percent, the cancer went into remission.

The Food and Drug Administration, once criticized for being sluggish on drug approvals, moved swiftly on Gleevec, releasing it after just two and a half months of review under its 1993 accelerated approval regulation. The drug may be in pharmacies as early as next week, according to its makers, Novartis AG.

Novartis deserves commendation. Although Gleevec targets a small number of patients, thus reducing profit levels, the company has pushed toward long-term returns, recognizing that the drug has promise for other cancers. The company took a financial risk by beginning production even though the drug had not yet received approval. Novartis did not want to present the drug, then disappoint patients by not having it available. Skeptics may dismiss that, saying no pill would mean no profits, but Novartis says it will supply the drug -- which would cost between $2,000 and $2,400 a month -- at a discount to patients not covered by health insurance, and free to those who can't afford it. That generosity cannot be snubbed.

Then there's Suzan McNamara. The Montreal woman who was suffering from CML heard about Gleevec through a network of cancer patients and sought to be part of a clinical trial. When told there wasn't enough of the drug, she organized a petition drive that persuaded the company's chief executive to produce more and widen the trial. McNamara started on the drug in in January 2000; she is in complete remission. Hats off to her.

There's a long way to go before researchers can determine if Gleevec can be adapted to other cancers and they caution that it must still undergo the test of time. Time is a precious commodity for someone with cancer. But if Gleevec can provide hope, good.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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