Life is Our Life's Work , they say...or in other words...
Your Life's Saving (or Your Life) is our Company's Work.

 

SOUTH AFRICAN AIDS Activists Press Pfizer to Drop Prices.
by Emelia Sithole

JOHANNESBURG, March 13, 2000 (Reuters) - South African AIDS activists on Monday petitioned U.S. drugs maker Pfizer Inc to reduce the price of its Fluconazole drug to make it affordable to thousands of the country's AIDS sufferers.

A coalition of South African anti-AIDS groups and trade unions said Pfizer had seven days to respond to the demand.

They warned that failure could mean industrial action and lobbying from such organisations as Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) and Act Up U.S. which back the campaign for cheaper AIDS drugs for the poor.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) said it would also press the South African government to order a compulsory licence to allow it to import and register generic versions of the drug.

"TAC has asked Pfizer , the manufacturer of the drug, to either lower its price, or give TAC a voluntary licence to distribute it in South Africa," TAC said. Fluconazole is sold under patent in South Africa at a wholesale price of 57 rand ($8.8) per 200 mg capsule to the private sector and around 37 rand to public services.

TAC said the cost of the daily dose of up to 400 mg per day was beyond the means of most of the country's cash-strapped public hospitals and above the daily wage of most workers.

TAC said the coalition had targeted Pfizer because its Flucanozole drug - better known under the brand name Diflucan - had proven effective in preventing and treating thrush and cryptococcal meningitis, two opportunistic diseases associated with the AIDS-causing Human Immuno Deficiency Virus (HIV).

TAC officials said a majority of the 100,000 South Africans who die each year from AIDS-related diseases could avoid some of these crippling and painful illnesses if Pfizer lowered the price of Fluconazole to make it more widely available.

Reuters English News Service

Posting from AIDSACT

Thiru from CPtech did some research for me on Fluconazole and found out it was discovered and patented by Paul A Worthington of Empire Chemical Industries PLC. a UK based company; we are trying to find out who paid for the research, whether it was Empire Chemical or the UK government or a University, (or perhaps Pfizer gave them a grant but it is highly unlikely because if Pfizer had paid for the research they would have patented the drug). Instead, Empire Chemical has the first patent on the drug (#4416682) and the second patent on the drug was also in this researcher and company's name and was assigned to Pfizer, so we have another case of a big drug company buying a drug discovered by someone else and making a fortune off of the drug (worldwide sales of Diflucan, Pfizers brand name for fluconazole, in 1999 was 1.002 Billion, of which 480 million was in the US); again they charge billions to profit heavily from the research of others.

Fluconazole is most often used to treat vaginal inflammation caused by fungal infection, and normally not related to HIV infection.

So to protect the billion they make from treating vaginal infections, Pfizer lets people die of thrush and menigitsis. Pfizer's credo is "Life is Our Life's Work" I suggest we tell the world that in reality their credo is "Your Life's Saving or Your Life is our Company's Work."

Eric Sawyer


Launch of TAC campaign for a price reduction on Fluconazole/Diflucan
From: TREATMENT-ACCESS <treatment-access@hivnet.ch>
Date: Tue, Mar 14, 2000

"Treatment Access" is an independent forum provided by the Fondation du Present
by means of Zackie Achmat: Newspaper coverage of the Pfizer campaign.

Firms facing increased pressure to cut cost of drugs. Campaigners want medicine supplied at the same price as generic equivalents in Thailand and India, writes Pat Sidley (Business Week, 14.3.00)

PHARMACEUTICAL companies - at the moment the focus is on Pfizer - face increasing pressure internationally and locally to cut the prices of their drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS and the diseases associated with the virus.

The nongovernmental organisations involved in this action are making a point of saying they understand that Pfizer is not a charity and needs to make a profit, but they will not stop short of industrial action.

They stress that the issue surrounding AIDS and the price of drugs is a moral one and that companies could make reasonable profits while making drugs available to many more people.

Fluconazole (the trade name is Diflucan) is used to treat two particularly common "opportunistic infections" associated with AIDS: thrush (caused by a fungus) and cryptococcal meningitis. Thrush causes difficulty in swallowing and persistent diarrhoea and the form of meningitis kills. Many provinces and several hospitals cannot afford the drug, and send meningitis sufferers home to die of the disease.

Price is the main issue. For those in the private sector wishing to buy Diflucan (available only on prescription) the price charged is often R126 for a 150mg tablet. The price to the public sector is considerably less, at R36,33 for a 150mg tablet.

The Treatment Action Campaign and Medicins Sans Frontieres are to campaign internationally for the company to reduce its price to around R3 a tablet, which is the price a generic equivalent in Thailand and India would cost SA if it was able to import the drug.

The pricing of Diflucan brings into sharp focus both the issues of parallel importing and compulsory licensing. At the moment, Pfizer is politely being asked to cut its prices or to relinquish its license to produce the drug voluntarily. But failing this co-operation, the campaign will push for compulsory licensing of a generic equivalent or for the right to import a cheap generic from another source.

The reason why it is available as a generic in Thailand and not in SA is because Thai patent law has not yet caught up with the needs of signatories to the World Trade Organisation's agreements, and the Thai government has therefore been granted some latitude.

It shows, however, that the drug can be manufactured for around R3 a tablet and it is only price that keeps it out of most HIV/AIDS sufferers' reach.

The picture in Thailand also shows how competition affects the price. According to Medicins Sans Frontieres, Pfizer was able to produce the drug exclusively in Thailand for about $7 (about R50) for each 200mg tablet. After 1998, three Thai companies began producing it. Pfizer dropped its price to $3,60. The current price in Thailand is much cheaper. Biolab sells it at for $0,60.

According to the campaign, if SA was allowed to import the generic brands from Thailand, the national cost of treating 10000 patients with cryptococcal meningitis would decrease from $34,80m (R215m) to $2,16m (R13,4m) a year.


Aids activists press for cheaper drugs
by Emelia Sithole (Reuters, 13.3.00)

South African Aids activists on Monday petitioned US drugs maker Pfizer to reduce the price of its Fluconazole drug to make it affordable to thousands of the country's Aids sufferers.

They warned that failure could mean industrial action and lobbying from such organisations as Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) and Act Up US which back the campaign for cheaper Aids drugs for the poor.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) said it would also press the South African government to order a compulsory licence to allow it to import and register generic versions of the drug.

"TAC has asked Pfizer, the manufacturer of the drug, to either lower its price, or give TAC a voluntary licence to distribute it in South Africa," TAC said. Activists want the cost to the public sector reduced to less than four rand per 200 mg - the price at which the drug can be bought in generic form in countries where Pfizer does not have patent protection.

TAC said the coalition had targeted Pfizer because its Flucanozole drug - better known under the brand name Diflucan - had proven effective in preventing and treating thrush and cryptococcal meningitis, two opportunistic diseases associated with the Aids-causing Human Immuno Deficiency Virus (HIV).

TAC officials said a majority of the 100 000 South Africans who die each year from Aids-related diseases could avoid some of these crippling and painful illnesses if Pfizer lowered the price of Fluconazole to make it more widely available.

South Africa has one of the world's highest HIV infection rates. The government estimates that about 1,700 people are infected with the virus every day and that 12 percent of the country's 40-million people are HIV-positive.


UPDATE
Monday, April 3, 2000

SOUTH AFRICA: PFIZER TO PROVIDE DIFLUCAN FREE OF CHARGE TO AIDS PATIENTS

In a "surprising move," Pfizer Inc. is expected to announce today that it will provide the anti-fungal drug Diflucan free of charge to thousands of South African AIDS patients diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis, the Wall Street Journal reports. About two million of the 27 million HIV-infected individuals in sub- Saharan Africa are infected with the deadly brain infection, which can only be treated adequately with Diflucan. The drug's cost of $13-$17 per day and the fact that it must be continued on a daily basis for life have prompted activists to lobby Pfizer for reduced-cost treatment on AIDS patients' behalf. The move was unexpected because Pfizer "hadn't given the government or activists any advance indication it would respond to" the pressure that activists, including Doctors Without Borders, have heaped on the company in recent months. In early March, protestors launched a public-relations and letter-writing campaign in 18 countries, decrying Pfizer's lack of response to the crisis in Africa. Several weeks ago, protestors slipped past Pfizer NYC Corporate Headquarters security and confronted Chair and CEO William Steere and other officials, who had promised a response by today. The Wall Street Journal reports that it "is believed that Pfizer was worried about the public relations fallout from a demonstration" at the company's Johannesburg offices planned for today. Additionally, company officials were concerned that activists planned to disrupt the firm's annual May meeting, drawing Wall Street's attention away from Pfizer's acquisition of fellow drugmaker Warner-Lambert Co.

In a March 31 letter to Mark Heywood of the Treatment Action Campaign, Pfizer requested a meeting today with South Africa's Ministry of Health officials to "seek their advice and collaboration in a program to deliver Diflucan free of charge through appropriate medical specialists." Through the meeting, the drug company and South African officials will determine who will be eligible to receive the drugs, how the drugs will be administered and for how long. According to George Flouty, Pfizer's medical director for public health programs, Pfizer is offering the drug only to those who cannot afford it. By giving the drug to South Africans, Pfizer "takes on a responsibility to provide it to them for life, something that will require an unprecedented commitment." Pfizer's decision "is likely to spur other drugmakers to launch drug giveaways and price reductions in developing nations in coming months." Further, other African nations are "certain to press Pfizer for a similar gift" (Waldholz, Wall Street Journal, 4/3).

A news service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation http://report.kff.org/hivaids/


While some of us may see Pfizer's move as opening a door, they must see it as closing one. Their intent is to get great PR so that they can deflect criticism on prices and lack of access generally. We should make it clear that they can't buy off AIDS actiivists by providing one drug free in one country, while their prices, lawsuits and policy pressures kill hundreds of thousands worldwide.


13 April 2000
from Agua Buena

'No Free Flucanazole for Central America' says Pfizer

In response to a letter sent by Richard Stern of the Agua Buena Human Rights in Association, Sylvia Varela, General Manager of Pfizer for Central America has indicated that Pfizer will not be donating Fluconazole or lowering its prices in Central America.

According to information provided by Varela on April 7th, Heather Lauber of the New York offices of Pfizer told her that the South African donation was a response to a particular situation and that Africa is a "more important area of the world" with respect to the AIDS epidemic. Varela also told Stern that she was told by Lauber that in South Africa, there was no donation as such but that medications would be given out "at cost."

90 percent of Central America's AIDS affected population remains without access to ARV therapy, and opportunistic infections are common and deadly. But Fluconazole which is priced by Pfizer at $14 per 200 mg capsule in the region is well beyond the reach of most people in Central America where the per capita income in most countries is around $250 per month. There are, however, some generic versions of Fluconazole available in Central America, which range in price from $4 to $10 for the same 200 mg capsule. It is important to note that even a price of $4 per day is simply too expensive for many poor Central Americans with AIDS who are unable to work and must depend on charity even for food and shelter.

Sergio Navas, Secretary of the Nicaraguan Network of People Living with AIDS also directed a letter to Ms. Varela on April 8th. In his letter Navas stated "...this is to inform you of the many necessities we face on a daily basis and that it would be marvelous if you could help us with this medication (Fluconazole) that is so important for our survival when we have opportunistic infections....as in Nicaragua, people die on a daily basis in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Belice for lack of access to Fluconazole."

Nicaraguans living with AIDS have no access to anti-retroviral medications, except those few who receive them by means of donations.

Stern attempted to contact Varela on April 13th to regarding Navas' letter and was told that she would be unable to speak to him.


A group of people with AIDS broke into the Pfizer shareholder meeting, April 27, 2000, and interrupted William Steere's (CEOs) presentation to shareholders, blew airhorns, chanted, threw pill bottles, etc. There were two waves of protest. Protesters were roughed up by NYPD (choke holds, etc.) but there were no arrests.

One activist made a three-minute speech on drug pricing to assembled shareholders; Steere was at a loss for words. We've pointed out to reporters that this demo is the result of an international network--the action came out work ongoing in Costa Rica but was executed by US and South African activists in New York. This is just the beginning....

AIDS ACTIVISTS DISRUPT PFIZER SHAREHOLDERS MEETING PFIZER MEETING
Grand Hyatt Hotel 42nd street and Lexington, New York City, April 27, 2000
Protesters scatter pill bottles and seize microphones demanding affordable access to fluconazole.

(NEW YORK) A dozen activists rushed the stage at the opening of Pfizer's annual stockholder meeting; the activists left a legal picket outside to storm the meeting. Before the disruption, shareholders planned to consider a merger action with Warner-Lambert. The merger would have created one of the world's largest drug companies.

Activists from ACT UP Philadelphia, ACT UP New York, South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), and Latino AIDS groups distributed information about Pfizer's "market-driven genocide" to shareholders as they arrived at today's meetings at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in mid-town Manhattan. Inside the meeting room, activists scattered pill bottles and blood money, and used the microphones to demand sustainable, affordable access to Diflucan (fluconazole), Pfizer's life-saving anti-fungal medication.

Earlier this month, Pfizer responded to a high-pressure campaign by activists in the United States and South Africa by agreeing to provide its anti-fungal drug free to HIV positive South Africans with cryptococcal meningitis, an otherwise fatal brain infection. So far, the company has failed to answer similar requests from Nicaragua and other Central American countries, where an estimated 30,000 HIV positive individuals have limited access to essential medicines. Uganda has also asked for a sustainable access program.

"Pfizer doesn't want shareholders to know that the company's exorbitant prices literally kill millions with AIDS. Pfizer must stop stalling and commit publicly to providing affordable, sustainable access to this life-saving drug-in Central America and everywhere else people with AIDS can't afford Pfizer's killer prices," said Paul Davis of ACT UP Philadelphia.

"Pfizer is trying to get through these crucial meetings without addressing the issue," said Mel Stevens of ACT UP NY. "It's time for them to stop stalling and commit, publicly, to making their drug available and affordable to any country that needs it."

Fluconazole is used to treat cryptococcal meningitis, an otherwise fatal brain infection that afflicts roughly nine percent of people with AIDS. It is also used to systemic fungal infections like esophageal candidiasis. Without a price reduction or substantive, sustainable plan for improved access, most of Central America's estimated 30,000 HIV positive individuals cannot afford the drug. In Guatemala, where the average monthly wage is U.S.$250, a single 200 mg fluconazole pill costs U.S.$11.90 in the public sector and U.S.$27.60 in the private sector. In

Thailand, where there is no patent on the drug, the same pill costs U.S.$0.29.

Activists are challenging Pfizer to reduce the price of the drug or agree to allow countries that cannot afford it to produce it generically. "Donations are short-term solutions," said SharonAnn Lynch of ACT UP NY.

"Pfizer needs to take substantial steps to provide for long-term, affordable access on terms that work for every country."

"The tremendous scope of the AIDS epidemic requires a worldwide price reduction on fluconazole," said Zackie Achmat of South Africa's activist group, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), who attended the protest. "The donation is a start, but Pfizer is still placing profits before lives all over the world." TAC has encouraged the South African government to accept the donation, but has given Pfizer a July 1 deadline for agreeing to a price reduction.

In 1999, Pfizer earned U.S.$1.2 billion in revenue from on fluconazole sales. "For the money they make, we can help so many people that need these medications. That would not effect their profits," said protester Jesus Aguais of AID for AIDS, a nonprofit organization that provides recycled HIV medications to Latin America.

"People with HIV/AIDS in Central America are among the most abandoned of victims of human rights violations in the world. This action has tremendous importance," said Richard Stern, a Central American treatment advocate who made the request that Pfizer make its drug available to the region. "Until Pfizer agrees to a sustainable affordable access program for distributing fluconazole to all PWAs who need it in Central America, many will continue to die. Meanwhile companies reap billions in profits."


see also latest South African TAC activism >>> ACTIONS

 

see also congressional update: Congress Against Access to AIDS Drugs in Africa 5-4-2000

see also recent recant: Makers of AIDS Drugs Agree to Slash Prices in Third World...NOT _5- 21-2000

see also: GLOBAL MARCH FOR HIV/AIDS TREATMENT @ Durban South Africa

 

>>> ACTIONS