COSATU Communications Department – 2001-01-15
The democratic parliament passed the Medicines and Related Substance Control Amendments Act in 1997 as means to facilitate access to cheap medication. This was in view of the exorbitant cost of medicines in South Africa, especially in the case of HIV/AIDS related drug.
The act allows for parallel importation of generic drugs and issuing of compulsory license. From its inception, the legislation was strenuously opposed by opposition parties and the pharmaceutical companies on the grounds of protecting intellectual property rights. The Act has been in limbo due to the court challenge brought by the pharmaceutical companies which is now due to be heard in March 2001 in the Pretoria High Court.
COSATU regards the court case by the pharmaceutical companies as a serious stumbling bloc to the transformation of the health care system. It is also tantamount to profiteering at the expense of the health of the majority of South Africans who currently face prohibitively expensive cost of drugs. COSATU reaffirms its support to the Medicines and Related Substance Control Amendment Act particularly the objective to ensure cheaper drugs.
The drug company’s patents cannot be allowed to hold at ransom the health of our nation. COSATU therefore calls for the acceleration of the court case. Further, COSATU calls on the democratic forces to mobilise against this contemptuous action by the pharmaceutical companies.