ACT UP NY Press Release
March 22, 2000
ACT UP takes Pfizer's Headquarters by surprise visit
Contacts: Eric Sawyer: 212 864 5672, 917 951 5758;
Kate Kraus 215 731-1844;
March 21, 2000
For immediate Release:
ACT UP Members Walk In to Pfizer CEO's Office, Demands Meeting; Security Detains eight Activists for Hours, attempt to force them out of building though loading docks.
Eight Activists from ACT UP NY walk into CEO William Steere Jr.šs Office at Pfizer Worldwide Headquarters and demand a meeting. Activists were demanding that Pfizer drop the price of Diflucan, their Patented anti-fungal drug which Pfizers prices out of the reach or the poor, condemning hundreds of thousands of poor people with AIDS to blindness and painful deaths.
Pfizer prices this drug in South Africa at $17 dollars per day, while the average South African earns $7 per day. Pfizer earned 1.2 billion dollars last year alone from this drug, which they acquired by buying the patent from a British Chemical Company (Kenneth Richardson of Empirical Chemicals Industries, Plc. UK. filed the original and second patents on this drug; Filed: June 1, 1982, Approved: September 13, 1983.)
"Pfizer is holding a drug that can save the lives of people with cryptococcal meningitis over the heads of sick dying poor people with AIDS while they shake them down to empty their pockets of their life's savings, or go blind and die," said Eric Sawyer of ACT UP NY, to James Brigaitis, Diflucan's Worldwide Team Leader who meet with the activists more than one hour after several security guards escorted the activists off the CEO's floor.
"I don't think your investors would like that you condemn poor people who make $5 dollars a day in Kenya, to death by charging $20 a day for this drug in Kenya. Especially when it is produced generically in India and Thailand for 60 cents a day," said Mel Stevens of the Health GAP Coalition.
Activists were angry that Pfizer refused to return calls or letters to Steere's office and to Brigaitis, requesting a meeting and marched into the offices demanding a meeting.
Activist in the US are supporting the calls of activist in Africa, including the Treatment Action Campaign which has demanded through Pfizer's South African Division that Pfizer drop its price for Diflucan to the generic price or stop fighting requests for importing the generic version of the drug from other countries.
As advocates for People Living With HIV and AIDS, it is unacceptable to ACT UP that patients are still dying today because of curable diseases. We cannot passively stand by as patients in poor countries die because they do not have access to medicines that can save their lives. We cannot stand by as Pfizer's greed kills people because they are poor and can not afford drugs that are cheap to make, because Pfizer choose to charge a fortune for the drugs.
We know, Medecins Sans Frontieres and its national colleagues in the public and private sector, continue to diagnose more cases of cryptococcal meningitis, but are incapable, in most cases, of treating these patients afflicted with this fatal illness because of the high price you charge for the drug. In Bangkok, a patient afflicted with cryptococcal meningitis benefits from being treated with fluconazole at a reasonable price, which is not the case, either in Kenya, or in South Africa. In practical terms, this signifies that the selling price is 15 to 17 times higher in Kenya and South Africa than in Thailand, where the medicine is not patent protected. Pfizer charges two or more times the average daily wage for a medicine that can save some one's life.
ACT UP states that the populations in poor countries should be able to pay less for essential medicines. It is the populations of rich countries that should assume most of the costs of research and development for these treatments. If the patent system can be an important motor to encourage research and development of new medicines, a balance has to be found to allow access of populations of poor countries to medicines able to help save lives.
In the poor countries where Pfizer holds the marketing rights to fluconazole ACT UP demands that Pfizer:
- Either lessen the sale price of fluconazole (200 mg) pills at 0.6 US dollars or less, equal to the price of the generic version available in Thailand;
- Or, if Pfizer estimates that it cannot sell fluconazole at this price, allows voluntary licensing to governments and to NGOs that want such licensing agreements.
ACT UP and Medicins Sans Fontieres supports the demand that was made March 13, 2000 by Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in South Africa. If Pfizer would provide voluntary licensing to TAC, under its authority in South Africa, it could authorize the making and importation of a generic form of quality fluconazole at a low price.