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A Crack in the Resolve of an Industry: South Africa and the Drug Companies Have Changed Forever

April 19, 2001

"South Africa is to the global pharmaceuticals industry what Vietnam was to the US military. Nothing will ever be quite the same again. That at least is the view of Oxfam, the UK charity that has mounted a campaign for affordable medicines in poor countries," the authors began in their analysis of the multinational drug makers' lawsuit against South Africa.

"Yesterday, the drugs industry, exhausted by the vitriol that has been heaped upon it, threw in the towel." The authors acknowledged that in return for withdrawing their case, the manufacturers "appear to have won certain assurances from the government that it will respect the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), a document the industry strongly supports." The industry's decision will have ramifications relating to the issue of drug patents and prices in the developing world, and to how governments will respond to the AIDS epidemic.

The authors see the industry "committing itself to operating in two distinct markets: a low-volume, high-margin market in the west and a high-volume, no-margin market in the developing world. First moves have been made in AIDS medicines but medicines for other conditions could follow." Now, too, South Africa's own policies will come under greater scrutiny: "Activists, who have withheld criticism for the government while they focused on the industry, were yesterday sharpening their knives." Dr. Glenda Gray, a Soweto HIV specialist, said, "The government doesn't have a good record with HIV. We have a president who questions whether HIV causes AIDS . . . and a program that raises awareness but can't get condoms to people. It's difficult to see how winning this court case would be translated into treatment."


Back to other CDC news for April 19, 2001

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
(London) Financial Times
04.19.01; Nicol Degli Innocenti; David Pilling



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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