For Immediate Release,
April 19, 2001

James Love in South Africa:
Robert Weissman in Washington, DC:

"Today, Big Pharma capitulated in the face of worldwide outrage," said James Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, in response to news that the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association of South Africa (PMA) and 39 multinational brand-name drug corporations would drop their suit against the government of South Africa.

"Now is the time for the South African government to issue compulsory licenses for HIV/AIDS drugs to generic manufacturers," said Robert Weissman, co-director of Essential Action. Compulsory licensing permits generic competition for on-patent products. "By authorizing generic competition, South Africa will see prices fall dramatically and steadily, and will enable those with HIV/AIDS to gain access to the medicines they need to survive."

"The South African government deserves enormous credit for withstanding over the last several years massive pressure from the Clinton-Gore administration, the European Union and the drug companies themselves," Love said. "Other countries in Africa and the developing world have benefitted greatly from the South African efforts," Love said.

"The case was about U.S.-style generic substitution and European-style parallel importing, and whether African countries can do what countries in the North have done for years," Love said.

"The next step involves something that was not really resolved in the court case," Love said, "which is whether South African can and will proceed with compulsory licensing of cheap generics to the African market. Unless the South African government authorizes compulsory licensing on patents, people who live in South Africa will not get access to dollar-a-day AIDS cocktails. Nothing that happened today is sufficient to make that happen."

"The brand name drug companies must once and for all get out of the way of efforts to deliver life-saving medicines to people in South Africa," Weissman added.

The Consumer Project on Technology and Essential Action are both Ralph Nader-founded advocacy groups.

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