AIDS Healthcare Foundation Files Complaint in South Africa Against Drug Maker Over Access to Antiretroviral Drugs
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation yesterday filed a complaint in South Africa against drug maker GlaxoSmithKline, claiming that the company's high drug prices block access to antiretroviral treatments, Reuters reports. The complaint was filed with the country's Competition Commission, an independent body that monitors fair market competition (Reuters, 1/28). Musa Ntsibande, the attorney representing the foundation in South Africa, said that the complaint alleges GSK "abused its dominant market position in contravention" of the country's Competition Act and was "engaging in excessive pricing of its drugs to the detriment of the consumer," South Africa's Business Day reports (Kahn, Business Day, 1/28). In the complaint, the foundation -- the largest nongovernmental provider of AIDS care in the United States -- calls for GSK to allow licensing and manufacturing concessions for some of its antiretroviral drugs, including zidovudine, which is marketed as Retrovir; lamivudine, marketed as Epivir; abacavir, or Ziagen; Combivir, which combines zidovudine and lamivudine into one pill; and Trizivir, a pill containing zidovudine, lamivudine and abacavir, Reuters reports. The commission has yet to respond to the complaint, but some say it could call for "steep" price reductions if pricing is found to be "excessive" (Reuters, 1/28). Ron Katz, the attorney representing the foundation in similar complaints filed in the United States, said, "The cost of producing [zidovudine] is about one-fiftieth of what they charge for it," adding, "[T]he only thing keeping back generic manufacture is the patent held by Glaxo" (Business Day, 1/28). GSK spokesperson Vicki Ehrich said that the drug maker had not seen the complaint, but "stood by its record" of offering price cuts on HIV/AIDS-related drugs to developing countries. She added, "If we really are going to significantly increase the number of patients receiving treatment, we must work together with governments and others. The biggest issue is lack of funds to pay for this, however cheap the drugs are" (Reuters, 1/28). The Treatment Action Campaign and the Congress of South African Trade Unions in September 2002 filed a similar complaint in an attempt to force GSK and German drug maker Boehringer Ingelheim to further reduce the prices of their antiretroviral drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/16/02).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.