[Pharm-policy] more on SA TAC campaign
Wed, 18 Oct 2000 22:11:30 -0400
18/10/2000 14:18 - (SA)
Group to offer free Aids drugs
Liezel de Lange
Johannesburg - As part of
its controversial programme
to make Aids drugs available, Treatment Action
Campaign (TAC) obtained cheap generic Aids drugs in
Thailand and plans to distribute the medication free
of charge to patients in South Africa.
The drug, a generic equivalent of Pfizer's diflucan,
is used in the treatment of patients with
Aids-related thrush, a fatal type of meningitis.
"We challenge Pfizer and the Pharmaceutical
Manufacturers Association (PMA) to take steps
against us for contravening the patents rights act,"
said TAC chief Zackie Achmat. The 5 000 tablets will
be distributed among doctors who in turn will
dispense them on prescription.
Achmat said his organisation would hand over some of
the drugs to the Medicine Control Council (MCC).
It is prohibited to issue prescription drugs without
the permission of the MCC.
Biozole is manufactured in Thailand and costs about
R1.78 per tablet compared to the R80.24 for diflucan
in the private sector and R28.75 in government
"Through our action we want to show that the drugs
need not be expensive, we want to show it is
possible to distribute them," said Morna Cornell of
She asserts that this is a symbolic step as they are
not in a position to buy enough drugs for
distribution among all of the 4.2 million HIV/Aids
sufferers in South Africa.
Pfizer earlier offered to donate a certain amount of
diflucan to the state, however, the process has
still not been concluded.
"The aim is not only to make cheaper drugs available
to state patients, but also to force down the price
for private patients," said Aids Law Project chief
Mark Heywood. "The pharmaceutical industry will have
to place human life ahead of profits."
During his visit to Thailand, Achmat compared the
prices of several other generic drugs to those of
the original medicine.
Combivir, an anti-retro viral drug, manufactured
from AZT and 3TC sells at about R20 per dosage in
the private sector in South Africa. In India the
generic equivalent is sold at R5.43.
"Profits gained by manufacturers should no longer be
the indicator of who lives and for how long,"