AIDS Healthcare Foundation To File Suit Against GSK on Behalf of People Who Died From AIDS-Related Complications
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation on Thursday announced that they plan to file a class-action lawsuit in South Africa against drug maker GlaxoSmithKline seeking damages on behalf of deceased HIV-positive people who could not afford antiretroviral drugs, Reuters reports (Chege, Reuters, 11/13). South Africa's Competition Commission last month decided that GSK and Boehringer Ingelheim violated the country's competition act by setting antiretroviral drug prices too high and by refusing to license their patents to generic drug manufacturers. The commission recommended to the Competition Tribunal -- which has enforcement powers -- that the two companies be forced to allow generic licenses in exchange for royalties and be required to pay a fine of 10% of their annual antiretroviral sales for each year that they have violated the 1998 law. AHF -- the largest nongovernmental provider of AIDS care in the United States -- filed a complaint with the commission against GSK in January, claiming that the company's high drug prices block access to antiretroviral treatments (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/17).
AHF, along with the South African group AIDS Therapeutic Treatment Now, said that the class-action suit will "seek the awarding of damages by the courts to patients or dependents who lost breadwinners to AIDS, who because of excessive pricing by GSK, were not able to access treatment," according to an AHF statement. However, AHF said that it would drop the suit if GSK established a $150 million fund to provide free antiretroviral drug treatment in South Africa, Reuters reports. GSK South Africa spokesperson Vicki Ehrich said, "We have until Nov. 28 to reach a settlement. Hopefully that will be concluded soon." AHF President Michael Weinstein on Wednesday held a press conference calling for people living with HIV and family members of people who have died of AIDS-related causes to join the proposed lawsuit, according to Reuters. AHF said in a statement, "The weight of many of these deaths and the ongoing pain and suffering of those who cannot access medications falls squarely on GSK" (Reuters, 11/13).