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Health Dept plans to push for cheaper drugs after ARV success

The department has signed an HIV/Aids drug tender worth R14 billion with four pharmaceutical firms.

Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says his department aims to purchase different types of life-saving medication at a cheaper rate in future after recently securing more affordable antiretroviral drugs.

The department has signed an HIV/Aids drug tender worth R14 billion with four pharmaceutical firms which will run over the next three years starting from April.

But Motsoaledi is adamant this is just the first step in reducing prices as the next involves proposed changes to drug patent laws.

"We are waiting for the Department of Trade and Industry and we hope that it will happen this year to change the intellectual property regulations of the country so that we start acquiring very cheap drugs, not only ARV's but any drugs."

In September 2013 the Department of Trade and Industry published a draft framework for a new policy on intellectual property which included patents on life-saving drugs.

The minister says the country has saved R15 billion.

"If we did not do what we did, if we did not fight to achieve the lowest prices, the country would be paying R29 billion to please the 2.7 million people we have got on the programme."

The department says with the drop in the price it will pay for antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) in the next financial year, it will be able to invest more money in its HIV treatment plan.