Opposition calls on state to help reduce AIDS drugs cost

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- Until anti-retroviral drugs are available in the public sector, the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) believes the government should help to reduce their cost in the private sector and make them more accessible to the poor.
"Not only would this move increase considerably the number of AIDS patients able to afford the drugs, but it would also be a strong indication sadly lacking so far - of the government's willingness to take AIDS treatment seriously," said DA spokesman Kobus Gous.
Last week the pharmaceutical firm of Bristol-Myers Sqibb announced new price reductions to the public and private sectors on two of its anti-retrovirals.
Several other pharmaceutical companies have made similar offers, and the generic manufacturer Cipla is investigating the import of its cheap generic AIDS drugs to South Africa.
But all of these drugs will be subject to a further 14 percent increase as a result of Value Added Tax (VAT).
"The effect of charging VAT on medication differs between the public and private sectors.
VAT is not an obstacle to the poor for most drugs for the treatment of life-threatening diseases.
"An income-related fees structure in the public sector means that the poor pay nothing or very little for medication.
"But because government policy still prevents access to anti-retroviral drugs for public sector patients, only the private sector is able to offer them - and few private doctors are willing or able to subsidise their cost," he said.
The DA has therefore proposed that until policy changes, and the government is able to subsidise the cost of anti-retrovirals to those who cannot afford them in the public sector, it should zero-rate anti-retrovirals in order to make at least some contribution towards their cost.
"This government has repeatedly called on private industry and donor countries to make financial contributions to South Africa's war on AIDS.
The DA believes it is time for the government to match these efforts with some real commitment on its own part," Gous added.

15 may 2001 19:48:00

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