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Government supports activists' role in court

The government on Monday expressed support for the Treatment Action Campaign becoming a party to the court case brought by pharmaceutical companies challenging legislation making provision for cheaper medicines.

"They have to deal with matters of life and death," MTK Moerane, counsel for the government, told the Pretoria High Court.

"It would be an injury not to admit them."

The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association has brought an application against the state in opposition of certain sections of the Medicines and Related Substances Control Amendment Act, which it says infringes on patent rights. The PMA is acting on behalf of about 40 local and international drug companies.

The TAC, a lobby group campaigning for equal and affordable access to Aids drugs, applied to join the case as a "friend of the court' in support of the government.

Arguing in opposition to the TAC move, PMA counsel SA Cilliers said the court case was not specifically about access to medication for HIV or Aids patients.

At issue was the constitutionality of certain sections of the Act, not cheaper Aids drugs, he contended.

Judge President Bernard Ngoepe ruled that the PMA should go ahead with its arguments as if the TAC had been allowed to join the case.

The court was earlier adjourned for about 10 minutes due to repeated power failures. - Sapa

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