HEALTH AND SAFETY

» Drug, Devices, and Supplements

» Physician Accountability

» Consumer Product Safety

» Worker Safety

» Health Care Delivery

» Auto and Truck Safety

» Global Access to Medicines

» Infant Formula Marketing

 

Letter in Chicago Tribune on AIDS Drug Availability in South Africa

This letter to the editor, by Health Research Group Deputy Director Peter Lurie, M.D., MPH, appeared in the Chicago Sun Times on September 25, 1999.

Your Sept. 13 editorial "Sensible truce on AIDS drugs" describes the South African government's decision to review--not "withdraw," as stated in the editorial--its law seeking to procure affordable, lifesaving drugs for its growing HIV -positive population as a "sensible truce." Only someone living in a country where most people have access to anti-HIV drugs could come to that conclusion. The brutal fact is that today in South Africa AIDS will claim more than 400 people. Some of these lives could have been prolonged by medications that are readily available in the U.S. but are unaffordable in South Africa and most other developing nations due to drug company price gouging.

South Africa is struggling to implement mechanisms that are legal according to World Trade Organization (WTO) patent protection agreements. These mechanisms are not, as you suggest, "legalized pirating," nor are the drugs involved "bootleg" drugs. Presumably the drug industry knows that the mechanisms the South Africans wish to employ are legal; perhaps that is why the industry has failed to bring a challenge to the South African law at the WTO. Instead it has mounted a campaign in the courts, which would demonstrate to other developing countries what will befall them should they follow in South Africa's footsteps.

In effect your promise to HIV-positive South Africans is this: Just wait--thanks to drug company research, affordable lifesaving medications are on the way. This same promise was put forth when the drug AZT was proved effective more than a decade ago, again when drugs related to AZT were developed and now with the discovery of the new protease inhibitor drugs.

Today none of these drugs is available to any significant degree in developing countries. Another round of empty promises will not sustain life in South Africa and other developing nations--but increased access to AIDS drugs just might.

Copyright © 2014 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.


Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation

 

Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.

 

To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.