On International Women’s Day (Wednesday 8th March 2017) this letter was issued by the Tobeka Daki Campaign for Access to Trastuzumab to the Human Rights Council, as they convened a panel discussion on access to medicines in the context of the right to health.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein,
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Dear High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein,
We are writing to you from the Tobeka Daki Campaign for Access to Trastuzumab in South Africa on the occasion of International Women’s Day to highlight the gross injustice faced by women across the globe in many low and middle income countries who cannot access lifesaving cancer treatments due to the exorbitant pricing of the pharmaceutical industry.
The Tobeka Daki Campaign launched a month ago on 7th February 2017. The campaign is in loving memory of a fearless activist who lead the struggle to ensure access to breast cancer treatment for women in South Africa. Despite being prescribed trastuzumab, a WHO essential medicine for the treatment of HER2+ breast cancer, Tobeka was never able to access the treatment due to its high cost. In South Africa, the annual price charged by Swiss multinational company Roche in the private sector is around US$ 38,365. The few public facilities which can access trastuzumab do so at a lower price of around US$ 15,735 per year. But, health economists have shown that a year’s worth of trastuzumab can be produced and sold for only US$ 240, a price that includes a 50% increase above the cost of production for profit.