German minister calls on industry to withdraw from SA case
Below you will find the translation we did of a statement that was
issued on the 5th March by the German minister of development coop-
eration. The Dutch minister of development cooperation has also made
very supportive statements in the media and in response to Dutch MP
The Dutch Prime minister said last week when addressing the parlia-
ment in South Africa: "Developing countries should be able to produce
or import cheap medicines. The situation is too threatening to leave
it entirely up to the free market".
Yesterday the judge postponed the court proceedings until 18 April
after objections from the companies to allow TAC as a friend of the
The companies argued that should TAC be allowed they would need at
least four months to reply to TACs brief. This brief addresses issues
related to high drug prices and questions the need for the high level
of patent protection in South Africa.
The companies stressed that it takes time to get evidence from "over-
seas". The judge gave the companies until March 28 to respond. He
stressed that the companies knew since February about TACs brief and
could have started preparations.
It is fantastic that high level government officials now add their
voice and ask the companies to withdraw from the case.
From Ellen 't Hoen
Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development
Press Release - Development Policy
Berlin/Bonn, March 5, 2001
Wieczorek-Zeul calls on the pharmaceutical industry to withdraw its
suit against South Africa
The 39 pharmaceutical companies have sued the South African govern-
ment because of their implementation of a law allowing the production
and use of cheaper AIDS medications. The Minister of Development Hei-
demarie Wieczorek-Zeul appealed to the pharmaceutical companies to
withdraw their suit as legal proceedings began in a South African
court. "South Africa has to ward off a national catastrophe," de-
clared the Minister.
According to UNAIDS estimates, almost 20 percent of all adults in
South Africa are infected with the AIDS virus. The World Trade Or-
ganization's so-called TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property
Rights) agreement, which aims to protect intellectual property
rights, explicitly provides for countries loosening patent protec-
tions on medications in the case of national emergencies so that ge-
neric medications can be produced and imported instead of the origi-
nal name-brand medications.
"Actually it should be clear that the devastating spread of AIDS
represents a national emergency," said Wieczorek-Zeul. As a result,
pharmaceutical companies should not file suit, but work together with
developing countries to find feasible ways to provide affordable
medications for people infected with the AIDS virus in poorer regions
of the world. "We don't need confrontation, but cooperation," the
In her view, this cooperative approach was embodied by the agreement
of five international pharmaceutical companies with the United Na-
tions to offer their medications at substantially reduced prices in
developing countries - a first step which should be followed by fur-
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