ACT UP PHILADELPHIA/ACT UP NEW YORK
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 3, 2000
CONTACT: SharonAnn Lynch (212) 674-9598
Asia Russell (215) 731-1844 page (215) 838-2355
If you reach voice mail, leave a message in box 9.
PFIZER CAVES IN TO AIDS ACTIVIST DEMAND FOR DRUG PRICE DROP
ACT UP suspends plans for Pfizer office takeover in response to drug giant's concession
April 3, 2000/New York: The activist group ACT UP canceled plans to take over Pfizer's world headquarters in Midtown today in response to the drug giant's agreement to provide free fluconazole to people with AIDS-related Cryptoccocal meningitis in South Africa. Approximately 3.6 million people in South Africa are infected with HIV, and over 100,000 suffer from cryptoccocal meningitis, a brain infection that is fatal if left untreated.
US AIDS activists had mixed feelings in response to Pfizer's announcement. "Pfizer has shown that it can respond when it feels the heat from people with AIDS," said Eric Sawyer of ACT UP New York. "But access for South Africa alone is not enough. Pfizer's market-driven genocide continues in poor countries like Guatemala and Kenya, where life saving therapy costs anywhere from ten to twenty dollars per day."
Fluconazole is effective in treating cryptoccocal meningitis, the most common AIDS-related systemic fungal infection, but the drug is currently priced at US$8.92 per pill in South Africa. In Thailand, where Pfizer does not have exclusive marketing rights, fluconazole costs only US$0.29 per pill. The average daily wage in South Africa is about US$7.00.
Pfizer's capitulation comes at the peak of an ongoing campaign led by the community-based coalition Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) of South Africa along with ACT UP, Doctors Without Borders, and other community organizations in the US. "This first step by Pfizer's must be extended to all other poor countries where people with AIDS are dying without access to fluconazole," said Joyce Hamilton of ACT UP Philadelphia. Pfizer reported $1.2 billion in profit from fluconazole sales worldwide in 1999.
US campaign escalation came two weeks ago when an angry mob of ACT UP activists stormed the office of Pfizer CEO William Steere, Jr., demanding the drug company concede to the South African activists and drop the price of fluconazole, or issue a voluntary license to allow people with AIDS to import generic fluconazole from a less expensive supplier. Today's letter from Pfizer addressed to TAC stated their plans to seek the advice and collaboration of the South Africa Ministry of Health "in a program to deliver Diflucan free of charge through appropriate medical specialists for South African HIV/AIDS patients suffering from Cryptococcal meningitis who cannot afford this treatment."
"Pfizer isn't out the woods yet-their track record with giveaway programs in the developing world is shoddy at best." said Asia Russell of ACT UP Philadelphia. "Without intense community scrutiny, Pfizer's program may devolve into nothing more than a public relations stunt."