Letter from 22 Dutch Non-Governmental Organizations to European Commissioner Pascal Lamy

Open Letter to
Mr Pascal Lamy
European Commission
Rue de la Loi, 200
B-1049 Brussels

Dear Commissioner Lamy,

As you know on March 5 the court case of the South African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association against the President of the Republic of South Africa will start before the High Court in Pretoria. This three-year lawsuit is a protracted effort to derail the implementation of the South African Medicines Act of 1997. The Medicines Act aims to improve access to affordable medicines for the whole South African population. Especially the 4.3 million South Africans living with HIV/AIDS who cannot afford medical treatment at current, patented prices, will benefit from the implementation of this Act. The signatories of this letter consider the affordability of medicines as one of the most important conditions of success of integrated health policies. This Court case requires European attention, since it does not only affect the situation in South Africa but it is also expected to set a precedent for similar cases in other developing countries that are currently revising their national laws in accordance with the WTO agreement on Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

In 1998 the action of the pharmaceutical industry against South Africa was supported by the US Government and by the European Commission. On March 23, 1998 Sir Leon Brittan, Vice President of the European Commission, wrote to the South African Vice President Thabo Mbeki describing his concern with the Medicine Act, saying the Act "would negatively affect the interests of the European pharmaceutical industry." The letter of Sir Leon Brittan neglects health interests of the South African population and conflicts with the special arrangements in the TRIPS Agreement regarding parallel import and compulsory licensing. It is also contrary to common practice within Europe itself regarding parallel import of pharmaceuticals.

The undersigned Dutch development organisations ask you urgently to officially withdraw the letter of the Commission of 23 March 1998 and inform President Mbeki of South Africa about this decision. We also ask you to explicitly and formally express in the letter to President Mbeki the Commission's support for South Africa's right to use TRIPS-legal measures to address public health concerns.

We hope the Commission will decide on this step before the court case opens on March 5.

Sincerely Yours,

P.A.M.Hermes Drs. Th. H. van Koolwijk
Directeur NiZA Directeur a.i. Wemos

Also on behalf of:

· African Foundation for Aids Prevention and Counselling (AFAPAC), K.A. Adanse-Pipim, director

· Aids Fonds - Netherlands, D. Peter van Rooijen, M.A., director

· Comité Zorg voor iedereen (Care for All), R. Helmer-Englebert, I. Palm, coordinators

· CordAid, Roman Catholic Organisation for Relief and Development, H. Kruijssen, general director

· COS Friesland (regional centre for development education), H. Prins

· Dutch HIV Association, M. Verbrugge, chair

· Evert Vermeer Foundation, S. Dikkers, director

· Farmacie Mondiaal, T. van der Schors, chair

· Global Ministries of the Uniting Churches of the Netherlands, G. Boer, Head of the Foreign Affairs Department

· Hivos, J. Dijkstra, director

· ICCO, Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation, J.H. van Ham, general director

· International Dispensary Association (IDA), R. Wehrens

· Inzet, Association for North South Campaigns, H. Taselaar, director

· Medical Coordination Secretariat, P.F.C. van der Hoeven, director

· Médecins Sans Frontières - Holland, A. Davis, director

· Municipal Twinning Tilburg - Lekoa Vaal, E. van den Boom, chair

· National Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (CNV), D. Terpstra , president

· Netherlands Network on Sexual/Reproductive Health & Aids, P.L. Janssen, chair

· Netherlands Society for Tropical Medicines (NVTG), C.D. van der Does, director

· Novib S. Borren, director

· South-North Federation (ZNF), E. Oostrijk, coordinator

· VSO - Netherlands, G.M. Eekhout, director

· Health Action International-Europe (HAI-Europe), M. Ewen, coordinator

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