ANC mulls state drug firm

2011-07-19 12:56

The ANC national executive committee (NEC) wants government to set up a state pharmaceutical company.

The establishment of such a company was one of the issues discussed at the ruling party’s four-day NEC lekgotla that took place in Pretoria.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said South Africa consumed 25% of the world’s antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), even though the country accounted for only 0.7% of the world’s population.

“That is a compelling case for us establishing a state pharmaceutical company,” Mantashe said.

There had also been a dramatic rise in the number of people who undertake voluntary HIV tests.

“The number of people who are accessing treatment has also increased dramatically. As a result of that there’s a serious discussion that has been started at that lekgotla,” he said.

The decision is in line with a resolution taken at the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference that the government should established a pharmaceutical company, something that has been done by countries such as China, Cuba and Brazil.

Back then, the ANC said such a company would help contain the rise of medicine prices.

It is not clear yet who will run the company and how it will be run.

Mantashe also revealed that the Brazilian state drug company was setting up a branch in Mozambique, saying there was no need for SA to provide a pharmaceutical market for Brazil.

The lekgotla proposed that government should provide seed capital to “facilitate” the establishment of the national health insurance (NHI) scheme, but did not say how much the funding of the scheme should be.

The mandatory health scheme covering all citizens is scheduled to kick in next year.

“There is a programme driven by the Department of Health of assessing facilities. That programme is going at a speed of 100 facilities per week because there must be a sense of which facilities are working and which (ones) are off-the-mark in terms of readiness for the NHI.

“The NHI is going to be phased in (over time), therefore that assessment of facilities will inform the amount of seed capital put up for the NHI,” he said.

The resolutions of the ANC’s NEC lekgotla will influence discussion at the Cabinet lekgotla, to be held towards the end of the month, and will also guide the government’s medium-term budget process.

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