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Last Updated: Friday, 17 October, 2003, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Glaxo in dock over Aids drugs
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Drugs giant GSK could face fines after South Africa's competition watchdog ruled that the firm failed to make life-saving Aids treatments available to the poor.

The Competition Commission recommended that the firm pay a penalty equivalent to 10% of its annual Aids drugs sales in South Africa.

It also recommended that GSK and rival pharmaceutical firm Boehringer be forced to allow generic drugmakers to produce cheap copies of their Aids medicines, in return for royalty payments.

"We believe that this is feasible and that consumers will benefit from cheaper versions of the drugs concerned," the watchdog said.

"We further believe that granting licenses would provide for competition between firms and their generic competitors."

The ruling will now be referred to the Competition Tribunal, which has the power to enforce the commission's recommendations.

Price cut

The competition watchdog's decision on Thursday comes in response to a complaint filed in September last year by the Aids Law Project, a South African campaign group.

"We welcome the ruling," said the group's lawyer, Fatima Hassan.

"For us the main objective is we get affordable access of (Aids drugs) to the people who most need them. We're happy that drugs companies are being held to account."

South Africa is home to about 5.3 million Aids sufferers, or about 13% of all known cases worldwide.

GSK said it was in talks with the commission, while Germany-based Boehringer said it was "carefully studying" the watchdog's reasoning.

Earlier this week, GSK, the world's biggest producer of Aids drugs, cut the price of its leading treatment in poor countries from 90 cents a day to 65 cents a day.

GSK shares were 10p higher at 12.87 in lunchtime trade in London.


SEE ALSO:
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19 May 03  |  Business
Shareholders put GSK under pressure
19 May 03  |  Business
Glaxo offers reassuring pill
12 Feb 03  |  Business
Glaxo backs down on CEO pay deal
26 Nov 02  |  Business
Q&A: Glaxo defeated by shareholders
19 May 03  |  Business


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