A state-owned pharmaceutical
company would be the best way to keep the costs of medication down, the
National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) said on Monday.
Spokesman Sizwe Pamla said
in a statement that privately-owned drug companies were motivated by profit
rather than the well-being of those who rely on their medications.
"We should also
remember that these people make their money from co-modifying and prolonging
sickness and not from curing it.
"It is therefore naive
of us to believe that they would have any self-restraint."
He was responding to a
report last week that a group of multinational drug companies operating in
South Africa were looking at strategies to block proposed legislation aimed at
weakening drug patent laws.
Reduce the costs
According to the report,
the section of the proposed policy relating to health would help to reduce the
costs of medication for a range of medications, including antiretroviral and
Pamla said healthcare costs
were frequently inflated by the costs of medicines, many of which were patented
"Our research shows
that the impact of the improvement in distribution which will result from the
proposed establishment of a national health insurance and the establishment of
a state-owned pharmaceutical company is the most sustainable way of expanding
domestic production to meet the country's needs."
Disappointed in the government
The union was disappointed
that the government had not implemented a resolution taken at the African National
Congress's 52nd national conference, held in Polokwane in 2007, to establish a
state-owned pharmaceutical manufacturer.
"This is essential to
the attainment of the health targets of the country and will also increase the
capacity of the state to provide an uninterrupted supply of medicines at a
scale which the National Health Insurance will require."
Pamla said it did not make
economic sense for the public healthcare system to rely on international drug
The companies referred to
in the media report on Friday were represented by the Innovative Pharmaceutical
Association of SA (Ipasa).
Ipasa then issued a
statement, saying it had rejected a wide-reaching strategy developed by
consultancy group Public Affairs Engagement (PAE).
This strategy reportedly
aimed at directing the nature of public discourse around the policy through a
massive public relations exercise directed from outside the country.
The PAE plan intended to
send the message that the policy could threaten investment and have negative economic
and social consequences.
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