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Labor supports South African action on medicines.

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Labor Supports South African Action On Medicines Jenny Macklin, Shadow Minister for Health, Peter Cook, Shadow Minister for Trade, and Laurie Brereton, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

Joint Media Statement - 6 March 2001

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Shadow Health Minister, Ms Jenny Macklin today urged pharmaceutical companies to drop litigation against South Africa and to allow developing countries to produce or import affordable medicines to fight serious diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

"I am concerned that 39 international pharmaceutical companies are taking legal action to defeat the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act passed by the South African Parliament in 1997," Ms Macklin said.

"The Act provides a framework for South Africa to legally import or manufacture vital AIDS drugs at prices far below what the pharmaceutical companies were prepared to sell them for.

"There is a crisis throughout Africa and many other parts of the developing world caused by AIDS which will devastate those countries for years to come. Australia has a direct interest because of the risk that AIDS poses to countries in Asia and the South Pacific unless effective prevention and treatment strategies are in place - including access to lifesaving medication.

"Those countries need medicines and they are simply unable to pay the $10,000 per person per annum cost that is charged in the developed world. The companies have largely recovered their initial investments and will continue to make profits on sales in the developed world.

"Developed countries should not be preventing the production of these drugs because of an argument over intellectual property rights. With tens of thousands of people facing death, another approach must be found.

Shadow Trade Minister, Peter Cook said " Australia should support the flexible interpretation of the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The TRIPS Agreement specifically allows for countries to take action in the case of a national emergency. Few would argue that the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa does not fit into that category.

Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Laurie Brereton said he welcomed the statement by new US Administration that it would maintain the "present flexible policy" established by President Clinton in 1999 to allow latitude to countries combating AIDS.

"Australia should be making a major diplomatic effort to convince other major developed countries to recognise the necessity of a flexible policy that enables drugs to be manufactured and imported at

affordable prices in such circumstances," Mr Brereton said.

Ms Macklin said, "There is an urgent need for the world pharmaceutical industry to come to grips with this problem and ensure that HIV/AIDS drugs are available in Third World countries."

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.