n Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine - Interesting times : horizons




The old Chinese proverb 'May you live in interesting times' has surely never been more apt than in the current HIV/AIDS arena in South Africa. Last month the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, on behalf of 39 drug companies, unconditionally withdrew its challenge to legislation - passed in 1997 but not yet implemented - that allows the government to make or buy cheaper drugs. The drug companies, which include giants Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim, had claimed that a section of the 1997 law that allows South Africa to import or make cheaper drugs overrode their patent rights. The patents are necessary, they said, to encourage drug research. The Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, is however quoted as saying that the victory allowed South Africa to pursue policies that she believes are critical to securing medicines at affordable rates and exercising 'wise control' over them.


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