Drug access shouldn't be reliant on industry goodwill, but be ensured by law

Government is concerned that poor people's access to quality medicines is dependent on the goodwill of individual industry players. With the Medicines and Related Substances Control Amendment Act of 1997 - now tied up in a court battle initiated by the pharmaceutical industry - government wants to ensure its ability to provide medicines for all, for ever.

The latest SA Health Review 2000 - launched last Thursday - confirms that drug expenditure puts an unsustainable burden on state coffers as the HIV/AIDS pandemic claims more and more victims, and contributes most significantly to the inequality in access to healthcare between the private and public sector. "Public sector sales are expected to make up 24%, which translates to R59.36 per person not belonging to a medical aid scheme.ÊIn contrast, the per capita expenditure on prescription drugs in the private sector would be R800.29," according to the Review.

The total value of drug sales is anticipated to be R8.25 billion, according to figures released to the SA Health Review Team by the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association.

Background to the court case

Health Director-General Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba said in a press briefing at the weekend that he took part in the 1993 health expenditure analysis which found government was making a disproportionate allocation to drugs. This, says Ntsaluba, culminated in the now disputed Act.
In January 1998, Zuma met with the pharmaceutical industry, represented by the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association.