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Joint Press Release of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), and Oxfam, Generic AIDS Drugs Offer New Lease on Life to South Africans Importation of generics cuts price in half
29 January 2002, Johannesburg:
Yesterday, three members of the Treatment
Action Campaign, (TAC) returned to South Africa from Brazil carrying
generic drugs manufactured for use in an AIDS treatment program in
Khayelitsha. At a press conference today, TAC and MSF explained that the
drugs carried from Brazil were the second shipment of Brazilian drugs and
that as of today more than 50 people are already taking the Brazilian
medicines in Khayelitsha.
To guarantee the quality of these drugs, an authorisation from the
Medicines Control Council (MCC), the South African drug regulatory
authority, was obtained prior to their use.
1.What medicines have been imported from Brazil?
TAC and MSF have imported generic antiretroviral medicines from Brazil.
The scientific names for these medicines are Zidovudine (AZT), Lamivudine
and Nevirapine. For part of the imported batch, AZT and Lamivudine are
combined together into one capsule.
2.What are these medicines used for?
They stop HIV from reproducing in the human body. This allows the immune
systems of people who have HIV/AIDS to get better (reconstitute). These
medicines have been shown to help people with HIV/AIDS to live longer,
3.Have TAC and MSF broken the law?
There are patents on these medicines in South Africa. TAC and MSF have
committed an act of defiance. By importing them from Brazil, TAC and MSF
have infringed the patents. The constitution, which is the highest law in
South Africa, protects the rights to life and dignity. By bringing in
these medicines, TAC and MSF believe they are upholding these rights. Note
that patent infringement is a civil matter, not a criminal one.
4.Why did TAC and MSF do this?