TAC To Launch Campaign Targeting Inequities Between South Africa’s Public, Private Health Systems
The South African AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign, which has been nominated for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, on Wednesday announced plans for a new campaign in its battle for universal AIDS treatment that would target inequities between the country's public and private health care systems, Reuters reports. South Africa's health care system has retained its apartheid-era structure of "elite" private hospitals, which primarily care for wealthy whites, and public hospitals, which are overburdened in their attempts to care for the majority of blacks, Mark Heywood of TAC said. In its campaign, TAC plans to target private hospitals, which it says are "too expensive," and push for a "people's health service for a people's antiretroviral program," Heywood said. Private laboratories, which charge up to $140 for an HIV test, would be targeted through lawsuits and protests, as would drug companies that try to stop domestic generic drug makers from producing antiretrovirals, Heywood said, adding that the details of the campaign will be settled by TAC's national committee later this month, according to Reuters. Heywood also said that TAC will criticize the government if it does not work more quickly to rollout a national antiretroviral drug program. "The announcement was August 2003 ... [and] it is now January 2004 and almost no facilities yet have access to the medicines," Heywood said, adding, "We don't feel there is enough urgency, enough political leadership or determination behind this plan" (Harding, Reuters, 1/14). The South African government's national HIV/AIDS plan aims to treat 1.2 million people -- or about 25% of the country's HIV-positive population -- by 2008 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/11/03).
Plan To Cut Drug Prices
Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang on Thursday announced draft regulations aimed at lowering consumer drug prices, making medicine more affordable for millions of South Africans, Reuters reports. The rules, which will undergo a three-month period of review and public comment, would require drug makers and importers to set drug prices at no more than 50% of current listed prices, according to Reuters. "We are well aware that our primary goal of affordable medicine for all is served through a healthy manufacturing, wholesale and retail industry," Tshabalala-Msimang said in a statement, adding, "We have no wish to undermine this industry, only to make it fully accountable to the interests of the consumer." The rules, which are set to go into effect in May, would apply to all drugs sold in South Africa, excluding drugs that the government purchases for public sector health care. South Africa's increasingly tough stance on drug pricing has touched off concern among some large pharmaceutical companies, Reuters reports. Industry officials on Thursday said that they have expressed their concern to the government and were studying the new regulations, according to Reuters (Quinn, Reuters, 1/15).