Published: Saturday 31 March 2001

More than 40 pharmaceutical companies, including the world's largest and most powerful ones, will file a lawsuit against the South African government in a bid to stop it from passing a legislation aimed at reducing the price of medicines. The companies had tried to stop the South African parliament from passing the Medicines and Related Substances Act of 1997, but after failing to do so the industry decided to file the lawsuit, thereby preventing the act from coming into force. The act not only seeks to regulate the marketing and distribution of medicines in South Africa but also aims at encouraging the import of cheaper drugs and generic substitutes. Drugs used in the treatment of Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (aids) are too expensive -- a fact that is widely accepted. Miryeena Deeb, the chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, to which most of the multinational pharmaceutical companies are affiliated to, said that the lawsuit will be filed not to "deny accessibility" of the medicines to those who need it, but to protect the rule of law and constitutionality. But, the South African government says that the issue is about fighting for the right to provide the drugs at affordable prices to maximum number of people.

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