April 14, 2010
Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi told Parliament on Tuesday that South Africa "must purchase ARVs [antiretroviral drugs] at the lowest possible cost from whatever source that can guarantee us the lowest prices, whether inside or outside the country. There is no choice."
The country has the world's largest HIV/AIDS caseload, with at least 5.7 million infected out of a population of 50 million. It also has the world's largest ARV program.
"The prices that South Africa pays for ARVs are significantly higher than all other countries," Motsoaledi said during his budget vote speech. "We must be able to purchase ARVs at the lowest prices as we are the largest consumers of ARVs in the world and must benefit from economies of scale."
Mark Heywood, an executive member of Treatment Action Campaign, said South Africa has paid hundreds of millions of rand to purchase ARVs that could be bought cheaper on the international market. After the finalization of ARV supply contracts, the cost of several medicines like efavirenz dropped significantly but the government remained locked into the tender prices, he noted.
South Africa has a 7 billion rand (US $961.7 million) plan to expand HIV/AIDS treatment to 80 percent of those in need and slash new infections by 50 percent by 2011-12.
"This is why the new ARV tender specifications will be prepared in a way that opens the way for us to purchase ARVs at the lowest possible price. I will not compromise on this," said Motsoaledi.
The country's top drug makers oppose the new tender specifications.