Activists stormed representatives of the French multinational pharmaceutical company Sanofi on Friday in Cape Town. Health-e News looks at what made them so angry in this short story accompanied by a video in which activists state their case about how the company must drop it's prices or leave South Africa.
Organisations including the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) have accused the company of profiteering and charging South Africans up to almost ten times the global price for a much needed medicine to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB).
Sanofi’s drug, linezolid, is one of the few medicines available to treat extensively drug-resistant TB. The drug is registered for use in South Africa and the Department of Health has issued a tender to provide the drug in the public sector.
However, TAC notes that the Department of Health has yet to purchase the drug and argues that this suggest companies set drug prices too high.
Meanwhile, TAC says access to the drug remains limited.
“Due to the cost, doctors must make a strong case for use in the public sector and many patients aren’t approved,” said TAC in a statement.
“Instead, patients must pay the exorbitant private sector prices of R655 per tablet,” the group said. “The global price for this product is about R76 per tablet but Sanofi is marketing it in South Africa at almost ten times that price.”
“For those unable to pay, go without and likely die,” said TAC, adding that Sanofi is profiting from the cheap prices for which it buys the drug from Indian generic producer Hetero.
International humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières buys the drug for its patients at about R110 per tablet.
“The cost of linezolid is unacceptably high,” said TAC General Secretary Anele Yawa in a statement. “We demand Sanofi and Hetero reduce the price of linezolid to allow access for all those in desperate need of it to survive.”
The protest took place at the World Lung Health Conference on now in Cape Town.
Watch TB survivor and TAC member Andrew Mosane explain why activists are up in arms about high drug prices: