Withdrawal symptoms

Drug firms abandon their case against South Africa over the pricing of AIDS medicines

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2001

 Case over: cheaper AIDS treat
in the face of mounting pressure, pharmaceutical manufacturers have abandoned their challenge against the South African Government over the pricing of aids medication. After more than 24 hours of final negotiations, the pharmaceutical companies and the South African Government reached agreement.
The withdrawal paves the way to the production and importation of cheap generic medication. Pressure had mounted from governments, aid agencies and the general public, with the industry seen to be putting profits ahead of the lives of millions of the world's poorest people. GlaxoSmithKline of Britain, the world's leading pharmaceutical firms in terms of sales, issued a statement saying the out-of-court settlement had satisfied both the sides.
It said it would "provide encouragement to the industry to invest in future research and development of new medicines including those for the diseases of the developing world." The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Associations in Geneva proclaimed the big winners as "the South African patients." Opponents hailed the withdrawal of the case by 39 of the world's biggest drugs firms as a landmark victory.
"It has been a public relations disaster for the drugs companies from start to finish," said Arup Biswas, spokesperson for Oxfam, a uk -based non-governmental organisation. "The image they've portrayed is that they are more interested in corporate wealth than the well-being of people." The organisation has been at the forefront of the public campaign for cheaper drugs, and Biswas hailed the climbdown as "a great victory for the people of South Africa." He attributed it to pressure from aid agencies and the general public, with the firms wanting to preserve their reputations and share prices. "It sets a precedent," he said. "The supply of cheap medicines is a lifeline to people in the developing world, while for the big companies the drug market there is nothing." However, he warned that the issue of getting cheap drugs into the developing world was not over, citing a similar lawsuit being brought against Brazil.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.