Fluconazole: Pfizer Asked to Lower Africa Price
March 17, 2000
On March 13 the Nobel prize winning medical organization Doctors Without Borders/Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) demanded that Pfizer, Inc. greatly reduce the price of fluconazole in poor countries, in a communication delivered to the company in 18 countries (Pfizer is headquartered in New York). Doctors Without Borders supported South Africa's AIDS-activist Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), which on the same day organized a delegation of union leaders, church leaders, and others representing millions of South Africans asking that Pfizer either lower the price, or grant a voluntary license allowing TAC to import the drug or manufacture it locally, with a 5% royalty to Pfizer.
According to MSF, fluconazole costs almost 15 times as much in South Africa, where it is patent protected, than in Thailand, where it is not (in U.S. currency, $17.84 in Africa for an adult's daily maintenance dose, which must be taken indefinitely, vs. only $1.20 at the generic price in Thailand). The African price is more than twice the average daily wage of employed South Africans.
The consequence is that few Africans are treated for cryptococcal meningitis, and as a result their life expectancy is less than one month. Patients who are treated can live for years with a greatly improved quality of life. Many Africans could be treated if they could obtain the drug at the generic price.
According to TAC, Pfizer in South Africa agreed to respond within one week as to how TAC's letter was being handled -- although it could not act on the issue itself within a week, as the decision would have to be made in the United States.
Letter from Archbishop
The Most Reverend Njongonkulu Winston Hugh Ndungane, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, wrote the following to the chairman and CEO of Pfizer, Inc.:
"Dear Mr. Steere,
Copyright 2000 by John S. James. Permission granted for noncommercial reproduction, provided that our address and phone number are included if more than short quotations are used.
This article was provided by AIDS Treatment News. It is a part of the publication AIDS Treatment News.