Motsoaledi takes shot at high prices of ARVs

THE government will not tolerate what amounts to blackmail in the provision of antiretrovirals by local companies and will look further afield for cheaper suppliers if necessary, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi warned yesterday.

THE government will not tolerate what amounts to blackmail in the provision of antiretrovirals by local companies and will look further afield for cheaper suppliers if necessary, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi warned yesterday.

Speaking during debate on his budget vote in the National Assembly, Motsoaledi, pictured, said the prices South Africa was paying for ARVs were significantly higher than any other country.

These high prices were despite the fact that South Africa had the largest ARV programme in the world.

"And to us, it does not make sense, because we must be able to purchase ARVs at the lowest prices since we are the largest consumer of ARVs in the whole world. We must benefit from economies of scale," Motsoaledi said.

He said this position had already generated opposition from some local pharmaceutical manufacturers.

"They have claimed that this approach will result in massive job losses.

"I believe this is a sort of blackmail. But I'll never bow down to it," he said.

"We need to understand that unless we take decisive action we will not overcome the challenges that HIV and Aids present.

"This is why the new ARV tender specifications will be prepared in a way that opens the way for us to purchase ARVs at the lowest possible price. I will not compromise on this one."

But Motsoaledi emphasised this policy applied only to ARVs and not to other pharmaceutical products.

In a speech dedicated to his late deputy Molefi Sefularo - who died in a car crash last week - he said an additional 519 public health facilities had been prepared to provide ARVs from April 1.

More than 1000 public health facilities now provide eligible patients with ARVs.

"I want to assure this house we are very determined.

"This, however, does not mean we are not experiencing a few teething problems in the implementation of this new treatment policy and strategies.

"We do have our own problems, such as our human resource capacity - our low human resource capacity - and supply and logistical problems in some facilities." - Sapa

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