E-drug: South African court case
[crossposted from Afronets with thanks. BS]
Pharmaceutical companies' case against government postponed
March 05, 2001, 01:31 PM
The Pretoria High Court trial involving a challenge by pharmaceutical
companies against government attempts to obtain cheaper medicines for
South African citizens was adjourned shortly after it started this
morning, due to repeated power failures.
Before the adjournment, counsel for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers'
Association (PMA), which launched the court action, objected to the
Treatment Action Campaign joining the trial as a "friend of the
court" in support of the government.
Advocate SA Cilliers, for the PMA, accused the TAC of "deliberate
lateness", saying this development could affect the proceedings.
However, it did not appear as if the TAC had anything new to add to
points already raised by the government, he added.
The TAC, an organisation labouring for the provision of affordable
quality medicine for HIV/Aids sufferers, last week announced its
intention of joining the court case.
Protestors gather in Church Square
Meanwhile, a group of pro government protesters on Church Square grew
to at least 500. The crowd was preparing to march to the Pretoria
High Court for a picket in support of the government, from where they
would march to the United States embassy in Pretorius Street,
according to a union official.
The group was made up of members of the Congress of South African
Trade Unions, the TAC, the South African Communist Party (SACP), the
ANC and unions like Hospersa and Popcru.
Today's protest was proceeded by an overnight vigil organised by
Cosatu, TAC and the SACP. Placards being distributed on Church Square
today read: "To hell with patent rights when it comes to our lives".
Another, depicting a skull, said: "Lives before profit."
Jacob Raseroka (35) said he was there to support the government's
attempts to get cheaper medicine for South Africans. "I feel strongly
about this," he said. Miriam Phalane (40) and Martha Bila (51), also
said they were there to support the government. "It is high time that
people start listening to our government. They want the best for us,"
Miriam Mabena (55) said she worked nearby and wanted to see what was
going on. Wearing a sticker and displaying a placard, she said: "I
think it is about Aids. I am looking for someone who can tell me what
is going on here."
'Expensive medicines amount to discrimination'
A group of religious and church leaders also pledged their support
for the campaign, with a Methodist Church leader telling the crowd:
"Expensive medicines amount to discrimination. The government has a
responsibility to make medicines affordable to all."
The protesters were led in prayer before embarking on their march. A
strong police contingent was at hand to keep an eye over the proceedings.
The PMA's court case is aimed at challenging the Medicines and
Related Substances Control Amendment Act. It launched the case on
behalf of 42 drug companies, amid a groundswell of protest from local
and international organisations and political parties.
The association claims the Act transgresses patent rights. The main
bone of contention is Section 15(c) of the Act, which gives powers to
the Health Minister to ensure access to cheaper medicines, and allows
the parallel importation of generic drugs.
The court case has incurred the wrath of Aids activists in TAC and
Cosatu. Both have claimed PMA's challenge was a bid to protect drug
companies' massive profits.
They say more than 400 000 people have died of Aids related illnesses
since the PMA first launched its challenge in 1998. Most of them
could not afford expensive drugs.
The SACP and the ANC have voiced support for the protest initiated by
Cosatu and TAC. The PMA's High Court challenge is scheduled to run
until next Monday. Earlier, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the Minister of
Health, said she was confident the government would win its court
case. "We have to win," she said.
Article printout courtesy of the South African Broadcasting
Corporation. Copyright c 2000 SABC.
Reprinted under fair use by
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