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AFRO-NETS> NGOs Question Transparency in Price of AIDS Drugs
- Subject: AFRO-NETS> NGOs Question Transparency in Price of AIDS Drugs
- From: Dieter Neuvians MD <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 00:24:24 -0500 (EST)
NGOs Question Transparency in Price of AIDS Drugs
Panafrican News Agency (Dakar)
Posted to the web February 21, 2001
NGOs, including Medicins Sans Frontiers, which are concerned about
AIDS Wednesday denounced what they termed lack of transparency in
multi-national HIV/AIDS drug deal for Third World countries.
At a packed media conference in Nairobi, the NGOs also questioned the
sincerity of the drug-makers, who in May 2000 promised a 85-percent
reduction in drug prices, but have so far only lowered their prices
by 20-25 percent to the detriment of AIDS sufferers, especially in
The NGOs, gathered under the aegis of the Kenya Coalition of NGOs on
Access to Medicines, the Action Aid Kenya, condemned the lack of
transparency in price negotiations between the big pharmaceutical
companies, UNAIDS and the Kenyan government. Therefore, they called
for the lowering of prices as promised.
"Millions of people throughout Africa are dying because of lack of
treatment," they said in statement.
"Multinationals are the biggest profit makers in the world, and that
is why they came up with the idea of price reduction in May. But that
was just a smokescreen they wanted to use to protect their empire,"
said Fr. Angelo D'Agostino of Nyumbani, an AIDS orphanage.
Unwilling to wait any longer to treat their patients, Nyumbani an-
nounced that they would order drugs from generic manufacturers.
In a wild move meant to pre-empt a similar scenario like the South
African case where drug companies are against a government decision
to bring in generic drugs, the coalition called on the Kenya govern-
ment and UNAIDS and other African governments to turn to generic
drugs which are relatively cheaper.
The pharmaceutical companies plan to take South African government to
court 5 March for promoting the use of generic medicines to fight
AIDS and its opportunistic infections.
However, the coalition said, for NGOs in South Africa and Kenya, the
basic right to health and cheap, quality treatment must take prece-
dent over corporate protection of patents and profit margins and po-
litical support by donors and government is needed.
Members of the coalition feel the South African court case is likely
going to be used to intimidate other African countries whose laws
would allow the importation and patenting of generic drugs.
Uganda and Ghana have been discussing proposals to import in the com-
ing few months the Indian company Cipla's cheap version of Combivir,
which combines AZT and 3TC in one pill.
"What we are currently working on is a global push, either through
mass demonstrations in South Africa or mass awareness to push govern-
ments to import generic drugs without fear of being sued or compro-
mised. We do not want the South African experience in any other Afri-
can country," said Indra Van Gisbergen, lawyer and campaigner for the
In a move critics say was meant to block the importation of generics,
last May, Merck and Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Roche, GlaxoSmith-
kline Plc, and Boehringer-Ingelheim, offered to reduce the prices for
AIDS medicine by up to 85 percent to nations in sub-Saharan Africa.
Before price reduction, the typical annual cost for the AIDS-drug
cocktails in the US and Europe was 10,000-15,000 US dollars per pa-
tient, unaffordable by the poor in Africa.
"With a choice of cheap, quality ARV drugs, more lives could be
saved," Dr. Chris Ouma of Action Aid Kenya said.
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