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Latest South African TAC Activism

T.A.C. campaign statement follows.

TAC member Christopher Moraka lived openly with HIV and recently died of AIDS. He suffered severely from systemic thrush and couldn't afford to buy treatment for it. The defiance campaign has been named after him because he testified about the price of fluconazole before the parliamentary enquiry into pharmaceutical pricing earlier this year. He was one of thousands of South Africans affected by Pfizer's excessive profiteering.

If you wish to make a donation to the defiance campaign: Account number: Nedbank Cape Town 1009 726 269 (branch code: 1009 09)
Account Name: TAC Co-operative Account

North American subscribers can make a tax-exempt donation to the defiance campaign by sending a cheque made out to:
South Africa Development Fund
555 Amory Street
Boston, MA 02130
Tel: 617 522-5511
e-mail: freesa@igc.org

Make checks payable to the South Africa Development Fund and indicate the funds are for the TAC Christopher Moraka Defiance Campaign.

100% of the donation will go to purchasing and distributing medication via qualified health professionals only, free of charge to patients.

TAC DOES NOT ACCEPT MONEY FROM PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES!

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DEFIANCE CAMPAIGN AGAINST PATENT ABUSE AND AIDS PROFITEERING BY DRUG COMPANIES DEFY TRADE LAWS THAT PLACE PROFITS BEFORE HEALTH

We are faced with the choice of watching our children, families, friends, neighbours and strangers die because medicines that can save their lives cost too much, or, defying unjust trade laws that protect AIDS profiteering by multinational companies. The choice is clear. The rights to life and access to healthcare are non-negotiable. Profiteering at the expense of life, even when protected by law, is not a right.

In March 2000, TAC challenged Pfizer to lower its price for fluconazole to R4.00 per 200mg capsule (still double the generic price). After TACs campaign started, Pfizer had announced a donation of fluconazole for cryptococcal meningitis free for all people with HIV/AIDS who could not afford the drug. Pfizer has made its donation a public relations exercise to disguise profiteering. Daily people are still dying because of conditions that are treatable and preventable with fluconazole yet, Pfizer has not yet finalized its agreement with the Ministry of Health, neither has it met the Health Ministers request for a lower price. On 13 July 2000, TAC announced its Defiance Campaign Against Patent Abuse and AIDS Profiteering at the International AIDS Conference in Durban.

As part of this campaign, TAC organised a visit to Thailand, where the new rules of the WTO are not yet enforced, and where many essential drugs can still be produced as generics. The aim of this visit was to buy generic fluconazole (a drug that is patented by Pfizer) to improve and prolong the lives of people with HIV/AIDS. The Thailand visit exposed the profiteering and patent abuse by Pfizer.

 
FLUCONAZOLE
SA PUBLIC SECTOR
R 28.57 200mg capsule
SA PRIVATE SECTOR
R 80.24 X 200mg capsule
THAILAND
R 1.78 X 200mg capsule
TAC challenges Pfizer, the drug companies and their parent body, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association to take action against us for defying their patent on fluconazole, and, preparing to defy patents on all HIV/AIDS drugs. TAC will stop defying the unjust trade laws with fluconazole once Pfizer has lowered the price to under R4.00 and its donation is implemented with no restrictions.

TAC has begun to establish a network of doctors and pharmacists who will prescribe high quality low cost generic medicines that are imported from countries such as Thailand and Brazil. We ask all doctors to place their patients before patents.

TAC asks Minister Alec Erwin to give the full support of his Ministry and Department to the Defiance Campaign and to the Minister of Healths efforts to make healthcare accessible and affordable to all people.

TAC asks all civil society organizations to endorse and help develop the Defiance Campaign against Patent Abuse and AIDS Profiteering.

DEFY TRADE LAWS THAT PLACE PROFITS BEFORE HEALTH

In 1997 there were more than 12 000 deaths related to tuberculosis (TB). Last year more than 120 000 people died as a result of AIDS. The health crisis facing South Africa is getting worse.

On October 11th 2000, Business Day reported that: A funeral parlour in Alexandra buries on average between 50 and 100 people a weekend who are known to have died of AIDS-related sickness.

The Educators Voice, a paper produced by the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) reports nearly 400 AIDS-deaths of members aged 20 and 40 between August 1999 and May 2000.

Access to medicines and healthcare services would have saved the lives of many people. Although there are many factors that prevent equal access to health care the price of medicines is one of the most significant obstacles to healthcare in both the public and private sectors. The medicines that are needed to treat HIV/AIDS fall into two categories

(a) opportunistic infection drugs (drugs that prevent or treat illnesses that occur because of HIV) and
(b) anti-retroviral drugs (drugs that fight HIV directly).

All anti-HIV/AIDS drugs are manufactured by multinational companies under patent and imported into South Africa. Because the drugs are patented they are very highly priced (see separate table). The result is that only the very rich and people with good medical aid coverage can access these medicines.

This is the reason why, since its inception, the TAC has demanded lower drug prices from multinational companies. TAC has pressurised the drug companies through pickets, marches, meetings, parliamentary hearings, complaints to the Competition Commission and threatened legal action. Specifically, TAC requested that: major pharmaceutical companies such as Glaxo Wellcome, Bristol-Meyers
Squibb, Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Abbott, Roche provide the government with voluntary licences for generic manufacture or import of their anti-HIV/AIDS drugs; Glaxo Wellcome, reduce the price of AZT to R180.00 for 100 X 100mg capsules; and that Pfizer lowers it price to R4.00 for 200mg capsules of Fluconazole or grants the government a voluntary licence to produce or import generic medicines.

These requests have been spurned. Meanwhile people continue to die. We believe that now is the time to intensify the campaign for access to essential drugs including life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs. We are calling on civil society organizations in South Africa and everywhere to join TACs campaign to defy patent laws. These laws prevent people from enjoying their right to health. They amount to discrimination on the grounds of poverty. We ask you to publicly endorse the defiance of laws that place profit before people, and condemn millions to death from preventable and treatable illnesses

The TAC has begun to establish a network of doctors and pharmacists who will prescribe high quality low cost generic medicines that are imported from countries such as Thailand and Brazil. The TAC challenges Pfizer, drug companies and their parent body, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association to take action against us for defying their patent on fluconazole and preparing to defy patents on all HIV/AIDS drugs.

TACs Defiance Campaign will show that it is possible to save lives by taking a stand against drug company profiteering.
ENDORSE THE DEFIANCE CAMPAIGN!


A DEFIANT Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has thrown down the gauntlet to profiteering pharmaceutical companiesî by smuggling a cut-price consignment of generic drugs into the country to treat HIV/Aids-related diseases, saying affordable drugs could save thousands of lives. TAC chairman Zackie Achmat said the group has imported 5 000 Biozole tablets, a tablet used for infections associated with HIV, for R1,78 each from Thailand, and will distribute them to a network of doctors and pharmacists. Biozole is a generic equivalent of US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer's Fluconazole, which Pfizer sells to the state for R28,57and the private sector for R80,24 per tablet. Achmat, whose group faces opposition from government and multinational pharmaceutical companies for importing the unlicensed generic, said the TAC wanted to highlight the scourge of what he called ìpatent abuse and Aids profiteeringî. He said campaigners faced the choice of watching friends, family and children dying of the disease because the medicines that could treat it were too expensive, or they could defy patent and other trade laws. Achmat said a sample of the drug would be provided to the Medicines Control Council with the relevant documentation for registration. He challenged the company, other manufacturers and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association to take action against TAC for defying their Fluconazole patent and for preparing to defy patents on other HIV/Aids drugs. "TAC will stop defying the unjust trade laws with Flucanazole once Pfizer has lowered the price to under R4,00 [per tablet] and its donation is implemented with no restrictions," Achmat said.The "donation" referred to a Pfizer pledge on March 31 to donate the drug free of charge to all people with HIV/Aids who could not afford it, for the treatment of cryptococcal meningitis. Achmat denounced the donation as a public relations exercise, saying not a single capsule had yet been donated, while people who could have been saved were dying daily.

 

Generic drug import warning

"Pfizer said on Tuesday that they would take legal action for violation of intellectual property rights against the TAC."
>19-10-2000 (South Africa) >>http://www.news24.co.za/News24/Health/Aids_Focus/0,1113,2-14-659_928059,00.html

Johannesburg - Importing generic drugs without the approval of the SA Medicines Controls Council and in breach of international patent rights set a dangerous precedent, Generix International said on Wednesday.

Generix International chief executive Iqbal Moosa was reacting to the Treatment Action Campaign's announcement on Tuesday that a TAC representative had smuggled a generic version of the drug Fluconazole, manufactured by Pfizer, into the country in contravention of both patent law and Medicines Controls Council rulings. "The people of South Africa have a right to affordable, first world medical care and drugs that extend human life and limit suffering and pain," Moosa said in a statement. "However, emotions aside, when anyone illegally imports generic drugs without the go-ahead of the Medicines Controls Council the consequences can be tragic."

Generix International is a company that distributes generic medicines under licence. Moosa, however, agreed with the TAC that the price of drugs supplied by multinationals in South Africa were "often obscenely high". "There are some interesting statistics indicating that the prices charged for these drugs are in fact artificially high. For instance South African drug sales contribute one percent towards the turnover of the multinational drug manufacturers, but a far higher percentage of profit. "This is evidence of where the priorities of the multinationals lie."

TAC chairman Zackie Achmat said on Tuesday this action was part of a defiance campaign against "patent abuse and Aids profiteering" by multinational pharmaceutical companies. He said campaigners faced the choice of watching friends, family and children dying of the disease because the medicines that could treat it were too expensive, or they could defy patent and other trade laws. "The choice is clear," Achmat said. "The right to life and access to health care are non-negotiable. Profiteering, at the expense of life, even when protected by law, is not a right." Achmat said the group had imported 5000 Biozole capsules from Thailand and would distribute it to a network of doctors and pharmacists. Biozole is a generic equivalent to United States pharmaceutical giant Pfizer's Fluconazole.

But, said Moosa: "These actions are illegal. How could any doctor in good faith use drugs which have entered a country illegally? The potential for breaking the Hippocratic Oath and ignoring the proviso to 'first do no harm' is enormous." If anything went wrong the medical practitioner would be open to malpractice suites, aside from the very real danger to the patient, he said. Moosa said that Generix International was in the process of lodging a dossier on Fluconazole and that he was confident the process of approval would be fast-tracked.

In terms of international law, generic drugs can be manufactured and sold once the original patent has expired - in the case of Fluconazole this is next year. Raymond Mallach, deputy chairman of Generix International, said in a statement on Wednesday that "daring a multinational pharmaceutical company to take you to court for infringing their patent was foolhardy". "Challenging a company with a turnover in excess of the GDP (Gross Domestic Profit) of South Africa, that relies almost solely on research and patents for its livelihood means that either you're searching for ongoing publicity, or that you honestly believe Pfizer will ignore the issue, which is extremely unlikely."

However, Aids Law Project head Mark Heywood said the TAC was not averse to court action as it would allow the issues of humanitarian needs and the abuse of patents to be aired in court. TAC wanted to challenge the right of profit-driven companies to set the prices of essential medicines.

Pfizer said on Tuesday that they would take legal action for violation of intellectual property rights against the TAC. The TAC has not received notification of this. Heywood said the TAC would approach the MCC to register Biozole under section 21 of the Medicines and Substances Control Act. It would also submit the product to the council for official verification that it was a high quality generic, which the TAC had already established.

 

Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000
From: Nathan Geffen ngeffen@yahoo.com

The Christopher Moraka defiance campaign against patent abuse is at a critical stage. Please, we require the assistance of our international allies to alert the overseas press to events, to express solidarity with TAC by endorsing the campaign and to assist in any way possible. The short of it is that a charge has been laid against us and that Zackie Achmat might be arrested in the morning.

Here's the full story (following on from the press release sent 2 days ago).

Today, TAC applied to the Medicines Control Council (MCC) for a Section 21 exemption for generic fluconazole. If this is granted, then we will not be contravening any of the MCC regulations by distributing the medicine to dispensing doctors. There is no **good** reason why the MCC should not grant this application within the next day or two.

In addition, many organisations and doctors have publicly endorsed this campaign. We held a conference to which the following doctors sent their endorsements: Drs Herman Reuter, Steve Andrews, Leslie London, Gregg Hussey, Costa Gazi and Leon Geffen. Dr Barbara Kaparkis of the Chapel Street Clinic (a state clinic, which has a shortage of fluconazole) while not publicly endorsing us has made very brave, sympathetic comments to the media (e.g. "I would love Zackie's drugs, but it's up to my boss!") More and more people have expressed support for the campaign as the day has gone on.

Nevertheless, the MCC released a statement condemning TAC for its actions. They also layed a charge against Zackie Achmat for "importing and selling medication illegally". We wish to be as co-operative as is reasonably possible with the police and the MCC. Therefore we are doing the following:

In the morning, Zackie will present himself at Bellville police station (20 mins drive from Cape Town). He will be accompanied by a TAC delegation, Patricia De Lille (PAC MP, respected across the political spectrum), Farid Esack (outspoken religous leader), possibly a well-known ANC person and the Dean of the Anglican Church (he's a very progressive person).

We will present the police with the following:
1. A full statement of what we have done and why.
2. A receipt for the 5000 fluconazole tablets purchased from Biolab in Thailand.
3. A sample of the medication.

However, we will not present the police with the main consignment of medication. This must be distributed to the doctors who have agreed to do so. If the police get hold of this consignment they might destroy it. This is what usually happens to generic products imported from oversees. For refusing to hand over the major consignment, Zackie MIGHT be arrested. He MIGHT also be denied bail until the consignment is handed over. This is not definite, but neither is it unlikely.

We will keep you posted with events as soon as they happen, but please be aware of the impending urgency of the situation, and the probable need for global action on this issue soon. Also, please let's watch Pfizer's movements closely. Protests in New York against them might be appropriate shortly.

Regards, Nathan Geffen

 



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