The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has challenged pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to take action against it for defying their patent on Fluconazole and importing the generic version from Thailand at a fraction of the cost of what it is being sold in South Africa.
Fluconazole prolongs the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS, especially those that develop thrush or cryptococcal meningitis.
TAC chairperson Zackie Achmat said a visit to Thailand exposed the “profiteering and patent abuse by Pfizer”.
He said a 200mg capsule of Fluconazole was being sold to the South African public sector at R28,57 and the private sector at R80,24 while the generic Thai capsule, a high quality version, could be purchased at a cost of R1,78 per capsule.
“We challenge Pfizer and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association to take action against us. We will stop defying the unjust trade laws with Fluconazole once Pfizer has lowered the price to under R4 and its ‘donation’ is implemented with no restrictions,” said Achmat.
The “donation” Achmat referred to related to an announcement earlier this year by Pfizer that it would donate Fluconazole for cryptococcal meningitis free for all people living with HIV/AIDS. This followed pressure and challenges from the TAC.
Achmat has since accused Pfizer of making its donation a public relations exercise to disguise profiteering.
He said Pfizer had failed to finalise its agreement with the ministry of health, neither had it met the health ministers request for a lower price.
TAC said in a statement that it had begun to establish a network of doctors and pharmacists who would prescribe high quality, low cost generic medicines imported from countries such as Thailand and Brazil.
The group also urged Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin to give the full support of his ministry to the defiance campaign and Health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s efforts to make healthcare accessible and affordable to all people.
The TAC again called on Glaxo Wellcome to reduce the price of AZT to R180 for 100 x 100mg tablets.