This is an archive of the Treatment Action Campaign's public documents from
December 1998 until October 2008. I created this website because the TAC's
website appears unmaintained and people were concerned that it
was becoming increasingly hard to find important documents.
The menu items have been slightly edited and a new stylesheet applied to the site. But none of the documents have been edited, not even for minor errors. The text appears on this site as obtained from the Internet Archive.
The period covered by the archive encompassed the campaign for HIV medicines, the civil disobedience campaigns, the Competition Commission complaints, the 2008 xenophobic violence and the PMTCT, Khayelitsha health workers and Matthias Rath court cases.
Christopher Moraka Defiance Campaign Against Patent Abuse and AIDS Profiteering by Drug Companies
Defy Trade Laws That Place Profits Before HealthWe are faced with the choice of watching our children, families, friends, neighbours and strangers die because medicines that can save their lives cost too much, or, defying unjust trade laws that protect AIDS profiteering by multinational companies. The choice is clear. The rights to life and access to healthcare are non-negotiable. Profiteering at the expense of life, even when protected by law, is not a right.
In March 2000, TAC challenged Pfizer to lower its price for fluconazole to R4.00 per 200mg capsule (still double the generic price). After TACs campaign started, Pfizer had announced a donation of fluconazole for cryptococcal meningitis free for all people with HIV/AIDS who could not afford the drug. Pfizer has made its donation a public relations exercise to disguise profiteering. Daily people are still dying because of conditions that are treatable and preventable with fluconazole yet, Pfizer has not yet finalized its agreement with the Ministry of Health, neither has it met the Health Ministers request for a lower price. On 13 July 2000, TAC announced its Defiance Campaign Against Patent Abuse and AIDS Profiteering at the International AIDS Conference in Durban.
As part of this campaign, TAC organised a visit to Thailand, where the new rules of the WTO are not yet enforced, and where many essential drugs can still be produced as generics. The aim of this visit was to buy generic fluconazole (a drug that is patented by Pfizer) to improve and prolong the lives of people with HIV/AIDS. The Thailand visit exposed the profiteering and patent abuse by Pfizer.
What is FluconazoleFluconazole is an essential drug for treating some common oppurtunistic infections associated with HIV, particularly Cryptococcal Meningitis and Systemic Thrush. In the private sector, Fluconazole costs approximately R50 (USD$7) per 200mg tablet. It is a simple drug to administer. Usually two pills a day are required. The South African government buys Fluconazole from Pfizer for approximately R29 (USD$4) per tablet. However, it is sold by many generic manufacturers at less than R2 (USD$0.28) per tablet. Pfizer uses its patent to prevent the South African government from importing Fluconazole from generic drug manufacturers.
TAC has launched a campaign to make fluconazole more widely available to the public health sector. At the moment, the only barrier to the widespread use of Fluconazole by people with HIV/AIDS is its high price. TAC has asked Pfizer, the manufacturer of the drug, to either lower its price or give the South African government a voluntary license to distribute it locally. Pfizer responded by offering Fluconazole for free to people with cryptococcal meningitis. TAC welcomed this offer, which has not been implemented yet, but pointed out that Pfizer has not offered anything to people with systemic thrush (the more common of the two diseases) and has declined to implement the offer on a global basis to other poor countries.
Facts About FluconazoleFluconazole is better known under the brand name, Diflucan (or Triflucan). The brandname version is produced by Pfizer. It is an "antifungal" used to prevent and treat common HIV-related diseases (opportunistic infections), especially:
TAC's DemandsTAC challenges Pfizer, the drug companies and their parent body, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association to take action against us for defying their patent on fluconazole, and, preparing to defy patents on all HIV/AIDS drugs. TAC will stop defying the unjust trade laws with fluconazole once Pfizer has lowered the price to under R4.00 and its donation is implemented with no restrictions.
TAC has begun to establish a network of doctors and pharmacists who will prescribe high quality low cost generic medicines that are imported from countries such as Thailand and Brazil. We ask all doctors to place their patients before patents.
TAC asks Minister Alec Erwin to give the full support of his Ministry and Department to the Defiance Campaign and to the Minister of Healths efforts to make healthcare accessible and affordable to all people.
TAC asks all civil society organizations to endorse and help develop the Defiance Campaign against Patent Abuse and AIDS Profiteering.
In 1997 there were more than 12 000 deaths related to tuberculosis (TB). Last year more than 120 000 people died as a result of AIDS. The health crisis facing South Africa is getting worse.
Access to medicines and healthcare services would have saved the lives of many people. Although there are many factors that prevent equal access to health care the price of medicines is one of the most significant obstacles to healthcare in both the public and private sectors. The medicines that are needed to treat HIV/AIDS fall into two categories
(a) opportunistic infection drugs (drugs that prevent or treat illnesses that occur because of HIV) and
All anti-HIV/AIDS drugs are manufactured by multinational companies under patent and imported into South Africa. Because the drugs are patented they are very highly priced (see separate table). The result is that only the very rich and people with good medical aid coverage can access these medicines.
This is the reason why, since its inception, the TAC has demanded lower drug prices from multinational companies. TAC has pressurised the drug companies through pickets, marches, meetings, parliamentary hearings, complaints to the Competition Commission and threatened legal action. Specifically, TAC requested that:
· major pharmaceutical companies such as Glaxo Wellcome, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Abbott, Roche provide the government with voluntary licences for generic manufacture or import of their anti-HIV/AIDS drugs;
· Glaxo Wellcome, reduce the price of AZT to R180.00 for 100 X 100mg capsules; and that
· Pfizer lowers it price to R4.00 for 200mg capsules of Fluconazole or grants the government a voluntary licence to produce or import generic medicines.
These requests have been spurned. Meanwhile people continue to die. We believe that now is the time to intensify the campaign for access to essential drugs including life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs. We are calling on civil society organizations in South Africa and everywhere to join TACs campaign to defy patent laws. These laws prevent people from enjoying their right to health. They amount to discrimination on the grounds of poverty. We ask you to publicly endorse the defiance of laws that place profit before people, and condemn millions to death from preventable and treatable illnesses
TAC has begun to establish a network of doctors and pharmacists who will prescribe high quality low cost generic medicines that are imported from countries such as Thailand and Brazil. TAC challenges Pfizer, drug companies and their parent body, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association to take action against us for defying their patent on fluconazole and preparing to defy patents on all HIV/AIDS drugs.
TACs Defiance Campaign will show that it is possible to save lives by taking a stand against drug company profiteering. ENDORSE THE DEFIANCE CAMPAIGN
Comparison of costs
Patent Abusers and AIDS Profiteers:Bristol-Meyers-Squibb (ddI didanosine)
Bristol-Meyers-Squibb (d4T stavudine)
Glaxo-Wellcome (AZT zidovudine)
Glaxo-Wellcome (3TC lamivudine)
Boehringer Ingelheim (Nevirapine)
*Lower cost AZT is the result of activism. The AZT price has been reduced from R5.54 in the public sector following TAC demonstations and protests. The same applies to the lower cost of Nevirapine for mtct.
Sources: Thai GPO and Biolab; India CIPLA; South Africa Department of Health; Private Discount Pharmacy. Valid as of 16 October 2000.