|19 April 2001
SOUTH AFRICA: Aids case decision
companies on Thursday, April 19th dropped their court bid to prevent
South Africa from importing cheap copies of their patented Aids drugs. "With
the consent of all parties, I simply ask to notify (that) the application is
withdrawn," Fanie Cilliers, lawyer for the 39 drug firms, told a packed court,
including Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and dozens of Aids
activists, many wearing t-shirts proclaiming themselves "HIV positive".
When the judge made the withdrawal an order of the court, loud cheers
erupted from the public gallery. An elated Health Minister Manto
Tshabalala-Msimang said she was grateful for the support the government had
received. Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) leader Zachie Achmat said: "Many more
lives can be saved through this legislation." Mirryena Deeb of the
Pharmaceutical Manufacturer's Association (PMA) said the organisation was
pleased with the outcome. She said an understanding with government had been
reached and, among many issues, the government would respect patent rights.
The case was brought by the PMA and 39 international drug makers, who
had sought to prevent implementation of a new law that would allow Pretoria to
import cheap copies of patented drugs. South Africa, with an estimated 4,7
million sufferers, has more people living with HIV or Aids than any other
country in the world. Africa has an estimated 25 million people infected with
the virus or already ill.
Meanwhile, the International Federation of
Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations (IFPMA) said it was pleased the
industry and South African government had found a "mutually satisfactory
settlement". The terms of the settlement met both the industry's goals and
those of Pretoria and would enable them to work together to address the health
needs of patients in the country, IFPMA said. "The winners in this settlement
are the South African patients who need continued and enhanced research,
development and delivery of quality medicines and vaccines," Harvey Bale, IFPMA
director-general said in a press release.
South Africa and the
pharmaceuticals industry agree the protection of intellectual property, such as
brand names, is an "essential incentive for innovation", IFPMA said. "This
agreement ensures that with strong intellectual property protection (consistent
with international agreements) the search for new medicines will continue
unabated," it added (Mail & Guardian daily).