Defiance Campaign

South Africa : Pfizer must yield to HIV people

A Report from the Business Day on the Campaign to Reduce the Price of Fluconazole

14 march 2000 

Activists meet Pfizer over prices 

Pat Sidley 

PFIZER, the US pharmaceutical manufacturer, faces local and international action from AIDS activists to reduce the price of an antifungal drug used in the treatment of AIDS infections. 

Representatives of the Treatment Action Campaign met Pfizer SA's CEO, Barry Smith, yesterday in Johannesburg to place the group's demands before him. 

The campaign has asked Pfizer to cut its price of fluconazole, marketed in SA as Diflucan. 

If it cannot cut the price, it has been asked to give a manufacturing license to the campaign to produce or import a cheap generic form of the drug. 

Failing this, the campaign will ask for a compulsory licence to make the drug available at low prices. Pfizer has been given seven days to answer the request. 

The campaign would like the price of each 200mg tablet provided to the public sector to be dropped to around R3 a tablet. The 200mg tablet is not supplied on tender to the public sector at present, but the 150mg tablet is supplied at R36,33 a tablet. The 150mg tablet is available from private sector pharmacies for anything up to R126 a tablet. 

Dr Eric Goemaere of the Action Campaign said that fluconazole's price had "nothing to do with the cost". 

A generic equivalent of the drug is available in Thailand at R3 a tablet and it should therefore be possible, he said, to provide the drug at a much reduced cost in SA. 

Before the meeting with Pfizer, union representatives in the delegation said industrial action was possible if Pfizer found itself unable to co-operate. 

Mark Heywood of the AIDS Law Project at Wits University, who headed the delegation, said Pfizer undertook to give some indication of its direction within the week, but decisions around the action would be dealt with by its head office in New York.

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