Bid to cut AIDS drug prices

London: AIDS campaigners in South Africa on Friday started legal action against the British pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline to try to reduce the price of patented drugs that could save millions of lives. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a group based in California, said it was supporting a network of South African patients' organisations in a complaint against overcharging for life-saving medication. The competition tribunal in Pretoria has agreed to hear the case and ordered the drug company to pay the legal costs. In December, GSK settled a similar action from another organisation, the Treatment Action Campaign, by agreeing to allow three companies to produce cheaper generic versions of its drug Combivir. But the AHF was not party to that deal, and is now resuming legal action to drive the price down a month and speed up the production of licensed generics. Michael Weinstein, the foundation's president, said: ``We have had to turn people away from our clinics because we simply do not have the funds. Patients have died waiting for us to be able to treat them. If the price of GSK's AIDS drugs had been lower we might have been able to save their lives.''

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004