US-Based AIDS Healthcare Foundation is planning to file a complaint with the SA Competition Commission against pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, in a bid to widen access to AIDS drugs.
The attorney representing the foundation in SA, Musa Ntsibande of law firm Strauss Daly, said yesterday that the complaint would argue that Glaxo abused its dominant market position in contravention of the Competition Act, and was engaging in excessive pricing of its drugs to the detriment of the consumer.
The local activist group, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), lodged a complaint along these lines with the commission against both Glaxo and Boehringer Ingelheim last year.
TAC spokesman Nathan Geffen said yesterday they were unaware of the planned action.
Glaxo holds the patent for the antiretroviral medicines AZT, Lamivudine (3TC), and a combination of the two (Combivir), which are used to treat HIV-positive patients. Boehringer holds the patent for Nevirapine, which it manufactures under the brand name Viramune.
Glaxo is opposing a lawsuit brought against it by the foundation in the US, in which the foundation is challenging Glaxo's patent on the drug AZT.
The foundation's US attorney, Ron Katz, said yesterday that the foundation was challenging Glaxo on the grounds that it had defrauded the US patent office. The foundation was therefore seeking to have the patent declared invalid, he said.
The cost of producing AZT is about one fiftieth of what they charge for it the only thing keeping back generic manufacture is the patent held by Glaxo, he said.
Ntsibande said the US papers would be incorporated into the foundation's complaint to the Competition Commission in SA, and it would be filed by the end of the week.
The foundation describes itself on its website as the largest specialised provider of HIV medical care in the US. Its presence in SA is confined to a pilot HIV/AIDS treatment project in KwaZulu-Natal, which it established last year in partnership with a local nongovernmental organisation called Netcom SA, to provide antiretroviral medicines.
The pilot programme's doctor, Paul Musoke, said that more patients could be treated if the drugs were cheaper.(Source: Business Day, 28 January 2003)