SA wants Roche to reduce breast cancer drug price

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Health Minisnter Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said that South Africa was in talks with Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche to reduce the price of its breast cancer drug Herceptin, which currently costs R500,000 a year to treat one person and is unaffordable to most women.

Business Day reports that the country has a history of pushing to cut the prices of vital medicines, including winning concessions from big pharmaceutical firms to reduce the cost of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) used to control the HIV virus.

Recently the government started free vaccinations of young girls against the sexually acquired human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes about 70% of cervical cancers. It had previously negotiated a lower fee with manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline.

Roche said it shared the concerns about access to innovative medicines and improving healthcare in South Africa. “We are at an advanced stage of finalising discussions with the South African Department of Health to improve equitable access to Herceptin in the public sector,” said spokesperson Ulrike Engels-Lange is quoted in the report as saying.

Full Business Day report

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