TAC Files Papers Against Drug Firms in South Africa Lawsuit
The Treatment Action Campaign, a South African AIDS advocacy group, today filed court papers against the 39 pharmaceutical companies that are suing the South African government over its 1997 Medicines Control Act, which would allow the manufacture or importation of cheaper generic drugs, charging the drug giants with "failing to act in the face of the country's AIDS crisis," Reuters/Contra Costa Times reports. The group's 800-page affidavit says that South Africa was within its rights to import generic drugs under international trade laws, including the TRIPS agreement covering patents, and dismisses the pharmaceutical industry's arguments that the law should be invalidated because Pretoria has failed to accept a series of drug discounts offered by the firms. TAC also notes that drug companies receive tax breaks for their research and contends that publicly funded scientists discovered the "key compounds" in patented drugs. TAC National Secretary Mark Heywood said, "Drug firms want South Africa to be a beggar. The price reduction offers are conditional and only made under public pressure and could be just as easily taken away. South African cannot give away its rights to compulsory license and parallel import on these offers." The pharmaceutical companies filed suit against the government in an effort to protect patents on drugs such as anti-AIDS medications, maintaining that the country's Medicines Control Act would grant the health minister "unfettered power" to import generic or copycat versions of medicines in violation of their patent rights" (Swindells, Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 4/11). On March 6, the trial was postponed until April 18 when Judge Bernard Ngoepe granted TAC its request to become part of the case as a friend of the court ( Kaiser HIV/AIDS Report, 3/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.