THE ANC HELPS
THE INTERNATIONAL DRUGLORDS TO PLACE THEIR PROFITS ABOVE THE FIGHT
Below we reprint an article of which we
have distributed 20 000 copies. The article deserves, we think,
to be distributed much more widely than this but we are limited
by lack of resources. We appeal for assistance in helping to get
our message out as widely as possible. We have updated the article,
due to the situation actually being worse than what we first thought,
and felt it necessary to include some introductory remarks. These
deal with some areas not covered in the article.
Why is the government dragging its
heals about implementing even a limited national treatment programme?The
answer lies in the whole structure of the drug industry. We have
always argued that prices in the period of imperialism in decay,
have no relation to the real value of goods. The price of medicine
is a classic case of this.
The annual sale of drugs worldwide, amount
to $400 Billion per annum. To date, over 23 million people have
died worldwide from Aids, making it the worst epidemic ever, in
recorded history. Yet the amount of sales for Aids drugs worldwide
comes to $3,8 Billion per annum. Of this, 90% of Aids drug sales
occur in France, USA, Italy, Germany and Britain. The sales of drugs
for baldness, obesity and skin care amounts to much more than the
total sales for Aids drugs worldwide!
Let us turn now to the price of the Aids
drugs: For example, stavudine [also called Zerit] costs $3400 [about
R27200] per year in the US, yet its ingredients cost only $23 [less
than R200]. Cipla in India is prepared to sell the treatment for
only [!] 100% profit, ie for $40 per annum. There are similar price
structures for other Aids drugs like combivir, etc. But how do the
drug companies manage to charge such huge prices, when the real
cost is virtually nothing? They do this through the system of patenting.
They register a product, and no one can produce it for the next
Over this period, only the ‘owner’
of the product, can charge what they like. The World Trade Organisation
[WTO] polices the ‘ownership’ of a whole range of products
and heavy penalties are imposed for anyone who dares defy them.
Most of the Aids drugs are recently patented and the drug monopolies
are determined that they make their super profits for this period,
irrespective of the loss of human life! The WTO is thus the instrument
of the drug monopolies to profiteer from the sickness of others.
[The WTO protects the profits of capitalism-imperialism across all
industries, but we deal with the drug industry here by way of illustration]
What is happening to the Aids drugs has been happening to all medicines
over the years. Zantac, the drug for ulcers cost $9000 [R72 000]
when it was under patent. Now, it is still expensive, but is sold
for a fraction of this price.
Africa accounts for only 1,3% of all drug
sales per annum across the world. So why would it matter? Even if
the Aids drugs were given away free to all those infected in Africa,
this would hardly dent the profits of the drug monopolies. The answer
is quite simply: If it became known that the drug companies were
making such super-profits from the Aids drugs, there would be a
massive pressure on them to reduce their prices in their main markets.
The SA govt, wrongly, it is clear, has
become known internationally as some sort of champion against the
drug companies. Whatever happens in South Africa is keenly watched
by anti-Aids activists and many of the millions of HIV+ people currently
in treatment across the world. The SA govt is doing the drug monopolies
a favour by taking the heat from the masses, by not doing anything
substantial to treat the Aids pandemic. In fact, by their actions,
they are making the drug companies look like good Samaritans, only
too willing to help, even offering to give the treatment away for
Nowhere in the world is there truly free
treatment for Aids. It is all controlled or limited by the main
drug monopolies. In Brasil, free treatment is only given to 85 000
of the over 500 000 who are HIV+. The Brasilian govt and local drug
companies are prevented from producing some drugs that are on patent
and have to comply soon with the WTO regulations. The Indian govt
does not provide free Aids treatment, and the local drug monopolies,
like Cipla, still profiteer immensely from undercutting the larger
multinationals. Companies like Cipla, also work hand in hand with
the drug giants. More than 60% of the raw materials for the drugs,
and often the finished products, sold by the US drug multinationals
are imported from India, Thailand, etc.
Thus companies like Cipla have a huge
stake in not rocking the boat so far as challenging the international
drug cartel. Due to mass pressure in various neo-colonial countries,
the drug cartel has allowed a limited token distribution of medicines
for Aids treatment.
We come now to the Treatment Action Campaign
(TAC) and the Cosatu leadership. Both are fully aware of the statistics
and operation of the international drug monopoly. Yet, they do not
use this to expose the drug cartel and the role that the SA govt
is playing in collusion with these druglords. They are playing exactly
the same role as the NGO’s worldwide, providing a pressure
valve for the horrors of capitalist exploitation so that the whole
system remains intact. Their approach is extremely dangerous because
they present themselves to us as our friends. The TAC should also
open its books so as to dispel reports that they or their affiliates
are part funded by the very drug cartel that they claim to be fighting.
We urge workers not to be fooled by the middle class methods and
reformism of the TAC and Cosatu leadership. We present below a working
Health care is not only about medicines
and facilities but is directly related to adequate housing; access
to clean water; access to electricity; adequate nutrition, clothing
and education. The government is not addressing even one aspect
of health care. Against this background, the actions of the ANC
govt in limiting medication to those who are HIV+ or who have Aids,
amounts to complicity with the international druglords in genocide.
What is HIV?
HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s
natural defence system that normally kills germs. Therefore someone
who has the virus is more likely to get sick and a whole range of
sicknesses can attack the body in a much more serious way than normal.
A simple flu becomes much more difficult to handle and developing
TB will become fatal very quickly. A person who has the HIV virus
is said to be HIV+. This person can live for some years before the
virus is so strong as to overwhelm the body’s natural defence
system. When the defence system is overwhelmed, the person has Aids.
The capitalists are allowing the
spread of HIV
Two World wars killed many millions of people as the imperialists
battled one another in order to redivide the world among themselves
for the sake of continued exploitation of the working class. With
technology developing, there is an ever-increasing surplus (over-supply-
to the capitalist that is) of labour. This poses a huge challenge
to capitalist ‘stability’. The drug cartel is working
hand in hand with other capitalists; to allow HIV and Aids to spread
throughout the neo-colonial world, to not only weaken the working
class, but with many millions dying of Aids, it is directly linked
to the increase in their profits on a global scale. [There is less
pressure from workers on the capitalist state for social responsibility
issues eg providing housing, education, nutrition, health care etc;
less is budgetted for the expense for the reproduction of labour].
From the introduction above, it is now
clear that this is only a secondary reason why the drug companies
are allowing the spread of HIV in the neo-colonial countries. The
main reason is quite simply that there is a limited market for them
to make sufficient profit. Any widespread programme, free or at
low cost will immediately raise questions over the high cost of
drugs in their main markets. Their profits would be threatened.
For the sake of maintaining their profit levels artificially, the
drug cartel does not care how many millions die. By the actions
of the SA govt, they support the drug cartel in this murderous campaign!
Will the Medicine
and Substance Control Act mean more affordable health care or adequate
treatment for HIV+ or Aids patients?
The answer is NO! This
Act gives more power to the pharmaceutical companies and entrenches
1. Cheaper drugs can only be imported
or produced with the permission of the giant drug companies. [The
drug companies own all the patents/rights to all the major drugs]
2. The only imports that are allowed are
those that have originally been produced by the same big companies
but from other countries, at a lower price (because they have to
compete with cheaper drugs there). Even if the drug companies allows
a generic (essentially a drug with the same ingredients and same
effect but a different manufacturer) to be made or imported , they
still receive a royalty payment.
3. The Minister of Health appoints the
Drug Council that determines all the rules on importing and pricing,
subject to not challenging the so-called private property of the
drug companies. People will be appointed who support privatisation
and profit-making out of health.
4. The Pricing Committee has no powers
to challenge the super profits of the drug companies.
So why did the
Pharmaceutical companies challenge the Act?
The Act only slightly dents the profits of the drug companies and
the 4 year delay of the Act has allowed them to maintain their profit
levels longer, irrespective of the many thousands that had to die
because of this!! So why did the druglords now give in? They gave
in because their huge profit levels[over 15000%!!] would have been
exposed in public, because of declining profit levels in other sectors,
and the struggle internationally was starting to challenge the very
‘intellectual property rights’; the basis of their profits
and their means of holding the health of the working class to ransom.
Intellectual property rights in this case means, eg that if a certain
company has the cure for Aids, or any other disease/ailment, then
only they can make and distribute this drug.
They determine what quantity is made.
Worse still, if they decide not to produce it, then no-one else
can do so, even if millions of people die! [This company can then
sell freely all their old and less useful stock for an indefinite
period, there is no compulsion to make the cure available- this
exposes the true role of the World Trade Organisation that enforces
Considering that Aids and TB are such
massive problems, it is instructive to note the bulk of research
funds of the drug companies are going to ailments of the middle
class and the rich in the imperialist countries [obesity, heart
disease,etc]. The cartel of drug companies set their prices virtually
at will. Price levels under capitalism-imperialism has nothing to
do with supply and demand. Offers from these druglords of free supply
of drugs is nothing but a price war against potential competitors,
using their massive resources to hold out until the competition
capitulates. These druglords control massive resources that are
bigger than several countries GDP’s.
The drug cartel still sets their profit
levels and the SA market remains the sole preserve of the druglords.
Adequate health care remains unaffordable to the working class and
fellow poor. More importantly, the fight against Aids and TB remain
hostage to the dictates of the profit levels of the cartel. Considering
that the rate of HIV infection has gone from 1% to over 11% of the
population in the past 10 years, the deal has institutionalised
mass destruction of the poor.
Let us not be reduced to another Uganda
where the Aids epidemic has reduced the average life expectancy
to 35 years! 4 million people are HIV+ in SA today and unless drastic
measures are taken, many millions will soon die of Aids. In this
battle, the govt is on the side of the drug companies in witholding
the necessary drugs for treatment for all HIV+ and Aids patients!
Despite the many well-meaning individuals
in the TAC,Treatment Action Campaign, it has channelled the energies
and rightful anger into a reformist, partial response, to the problem
of Aids and Hiv. They have not put forward the fundamental demand
for free medical care for all who are HIV+ or who have Aids. For
the TAC and the Cosatu leadership to hail the agreement of the govt
with the monopolies as a victory has given respectability and legitimacy
to the further wholesale destruction of massive sections of the
working class. The role of Mbeki and the Secretary General of the
UN in this deal merely confirms their subservience to the rule of
On the offer of
cheap or free drugs by Anglo and SACOB[SA Chamber of Business]:
The capitalists employ the minimum number
of workers for the maximum profit. The advances of technology has
meant that they want to reduce more jobs any way. Thus for them
a 3%, a 10% or even 15% HIV infection rate among employed workers
was quite acceptable. It is only now that the HIV infection rate
has reached 20% among some sectors of employed workers that their
profit levels have been affected!
Their main reasoning is that they are
losing too many workers, too quickly! It must be remembered that
the drug companies are part of SACOB and the ownership of the drug
companies, medical Aid schemes and the monopolies like Anglo are
inter-connected. Anglo’s offer to bring in cheaper generics
from Cipla in India, was done with the approval of the drug companies
and thus in a way that their profits are not threatened. The motivation
for the opening of 170 centres for the Aids drugs for certain employed
workers under SACOB, is due to high costs of hospitalisation, absenteeism
and the high cost of training replacement workers.
In other words, merely to prop up their
profit levels and not for a permanent cure/treatment of workers
nor out of concern for any of the sick and dying! We demand
1. The drug cartel should open their books
and reveal their profit levels
2. There should be immediate free medical
care for all who are HiV+ or who have Aids
3. The international drug cartel should
be expropriated , placed under workers control and the resources
available centralised on a world-wide scale and utilised to develop
a cure/vaccine for TB, malaria and Aids. Profiteering on health
care should be abolished.
4. TRIPS or intellectual property rights
should be abolished and all patents made freely available for the
development of humanity as a whole.
5. A planned world economy based on the
needs of the working class and fellow poor!
The spread of Aids while there are sufficient
drugs available for the treatment of HIV [although no cure exists
yet]is a reflection of the barbarism of capitalism. There will be
no solution to humanity’s problems under capitalism. The priority
remains the building of a revolutionary working class party as part
of the rebuilding of the Fourth International! Forward to Socialism!