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South African Tribunal Asks For Damages Estimates in GSK AIDS Drug Case

A landmark South African legal complaint against British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) over its AIDS drug pricing and policies in that country will proceed following an order late last week by South Africa's Competition Tribunal that will allow the complaint to go forward. GSK has sought outright dismissal of the case; however, the Competition Tribunal issued an order last week giving the complainants, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and several South African AIDS advocates, 10 days to present further evidence & arguments regarding the damages they claim to have sustained as a result of what they claim are GSK's illegal drug pricing and policies. The order also states that the parties will come back in late April or the first week of May 2005 to present oral arguments on these issues.

"In our case, we will submit to the Tribunal evidence of the monetary damages suffered as a result of GSK's illegal actions in charging excessive AIDS drug prices in South Africa," said Michael Weinstein, AHF’s president. “As a result of GSK’s actions, thousands and thousands of South Africans were unable to afford or obtain GSK’s life-saving AIDS drugs, and we believe thousands of those individuals have died of AIDS as a result. We thank the Tribunal for its order allowing our complaint to proceed and we look forward to fully presenting our case against GSK before the Tribunal.?/p>

The complaint was filed with South Africa’s Competition Tribunal in August 2004 by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the US?largest AIDS organization and several other South African AIDS advocates. AHF operates the ‘Ithembalabantu?(Zulu for people’s hope) clinic, a free AIDS treatment clinic in Umlazi Township, KwaZulu Natal in partnership with the Network of AIDS Communities of South Africa (NetCom SA) a local non-government organization. In the complaint, AHF and others allege that GSK has charged excessive prices for AIDS drugs to the detriment of South Africans with HIV/AIDS and in vi olation of the Competition Act.

“South Africans know that AIDS drugs are sadly out of reach for most of them because of pricing actions like GSK’s,?said Swazi Hlubi, Executive Director of the Network of AIDS Communities in South Africa (NetCom SA), and a partner with AHF in the Ithembalabantu free AIDS treatment clinic in Durban. “So much so, that more than 100,000 South Africans recently signed a petition calling on GSK to set up an AIDS treatment trust fund to atone for its past AIDS drug pricing and policies here in South Africa. We are grateful for the Tribunal’s order allowing this competition complaint to move forward.?/p>

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