The Common Good
May-June 2002

Good Drug Smugglers?

by Rose Marie Berger, Jodi Hochstedler | May-June 2002

The French agency Doctors Without Borders and the South African AIDS activist group Treatment Action Campaign are smuggling cheaper generic versions of three anti-retroviral AIDS drugs...

The French agency Doctors Without Borders and the South African AIDS activist group Treatment Action Campaign are smuggling cheaper generic versions of three anti-retroviral AIDS drugs from Brazil into South Africa, flouting local patent protection laws. "We have seen firsthand that these drugs can be used safely and effectively here in South Africa," said Eric Goemaere of Doctors Without Borders. "It is our duty to offer these benefits to as many patients as possible."

Importing the generic medications lowers the daily cost per patient from $3.20 to $1.55. Only the more expensive patented drugs are legally available in South Africa, the country with the world's largest population of people living with HIV/AIDS. Patent-holder GlaxoSmithKline said it would deal with patent infringements case by case. The death toll from AIDS will soon overtake the plague as history's most deadly pandemic.

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