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‘Pharma’ v Mandela: South African Moral Capital in a Global Movement, 1998–2001

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South African AIDS Activism and Global Health Politics

Part of the book series: Global Ethics Series ((GLOETH))

Abstract

On 19 April 2001, cheers, song and dance erupted in a packed room in the Pretoria High Court. The world had just witnessed a dramatic turn in the latest legal challenge faced by Nelson Mandela and his government. Just moments before, lawyers acting for South Africa’s Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association (PMA), which represented 40 multinational pharmaceutical companies, had informed Judge Ngoepe that it was unconditionally withdrawing its case against the country’s government and that it would bear all costs in the matter. The Mandela administration was now free to pass the Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Act (hereafter, the Medicines Act) to enable wider access to cheaper generic and imported patented drugs. Civil society activism had forced one of the most powerful industries in the world to retreat in a high-profile legal dispute with the government of a middle-income developing country. Moreover, this successful campaign against the court case had meaningful impacts for poor patients in developing countries. This favourable outcome permanently altered the politics of HIV drug pricing and, in a broader sense, global health in developing countries. The pharmaceutical industry — which was also sometimes informally referred to as ‘pharma’1 — introduced substantial reductions to the prices of certain branded ARV drugs, which facilitated a significant widening of global access to this treatment, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

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© 2013 Mandisa Mbali

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Mbali, M. (2013). ‘Pharma’ v Mandela: South African Moral Capital in a Global Movement, 1998–2001. In: South African AIDS Activism and Global Health Politics. Global Ethics Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137312167_6

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