[Ip-health] BDLive: Ipasa axes committee in wake of patents row

Lotti Rutter lotti.rutter at mail.tac.org.za
Fri Feb 7 01:04:20 PST 2014

Ipasa axes committee in wake of patents row


THE Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of SA's (Ipasa's) executive
committee has been disbanded in the wake of the body's row with Health
Minister Aaron Motsoaledi over medicine patents, it emerged on Thursday.

The four members of the committee have declined to make themselves
available to serve on a new expanded management structure that is yet to be
appointed, said Ipasa chief operations officer Val Beaumont. The
committee's term was due to expire in the middle of next year.

Committee president John Fagan, GM of Sanofi's business in South Africa,
said the committee work had been "very time consuming". "The multinational
business model is under severe stress. I have made major contributions to
transformation in the last 15 or 20 years. Now I really want to focus on
the Sanofi business," he said.

The row between Ipasa and Dr Motsoaledi centres on a R6m strategy that
Washington-based lobby group Public Affairs Engagement (PAE) proposed to
it, detailing a campaign to fight the government's plans to change its
intellectual property regime to make it easier to get cheap generic
medicines into the market.

Ipasa is an industry association that represents research-based
multinational pharmaceutical companies, which hold the patents on
medicines. While its members generally agree that if the government makes
it easier for rivals to make copies of their patented medicines it will be
bad for their bottom line, the row has shown they are deeply divided about
how best to counter such moves.

The latest development has exposed a rift within the executive committee
over the merits of PAE's proposed campaign, which angered Dr Motsoaledi to
such an extent that he called it genocide.

According to an e-mail leaked to the media by Medecins Sans Frontieres
(MSF), the campaign had the support of then Ipasa executive committee
vicepresident Michael Azrak, CEO of Merck Sharp & Dohme's (MSD) local
business, who was chairing Ipasa's working group on intellectual property

He urged other Ipasa members to seek approval from their global
headquarters, so that the campaign could be set in motion as soon as

PAE's strategy included plans to create a front organisation that would
have the appearance of a South African political movement, but would in
fact have been managed from the US.

Mr Fagan yesterday distanced himself from the strategy, telling Business
Day that he considered it "an inappropriate approach".

Mr Azrak said through a company spokeswoman that he was nominated for the
new executive committee but did not stand. "Mr Azrak will turn his
attention to a range of new research, manufacturing and collaborative
scientific ventures in South Africa, and as such would not have the
capacity to serve on the exco (executive committee)," Dorothy Mwangu said.

The other two members of the disbanded executive committee were Alcon's SA
CE Pierre Bosch and Pfizer's SA head Brian Daniel. Attempts to obtain
comment from them were unsuccessful.

Ms Beaumont said the changes to the executive committee would not affect
Ipasa's capacity to operate, as significant decisions were made by a
separate structure called the membership council.

Denmark's Novo Nordisk and Switzerland's Roche quit Ipasa last month in the
wake of the row that health activists have dubbed "pharmagate".

Novo Nordisk spokeswoman Shelley Harris said the company had left Ipasa
because of the proposed campaign, which it said it felt did not serve the
industry's interests. Roche similarly distanced itself from the strategy.

PAE's campaign aimed to delay the implementation of measures proposed in a
draft intellectual property strategy published by the Department of Trade
and Industry in September.

Delays would stop South Africans getting access to cheaper medicines,
putting their lives at risk, according to Dr Motsoaledi. He told the Mail &
Guardian that the campaign was "satanic" and "a plan for genocide".

The draft policy calls for the establishment of a patents examination
office, which would scrutinise patent applications and make it harder for
drug companies to get patents on drugs that were minor variations on those
already on the market.

It also says South Africa's laws need to be changed to make it easier for
the government to issue compulsory licences, which allow rival companies to
break patents.

These are both measures for which MSF and the Treatment Action Campaign
have been campaigning, arguing that SA should follow India's lead. India
recently issued its first compulsory licence for a patented drug, Bayer's
cancer treatment Nexavar.

Ms Beaumont said Ipasa had requested a meeting with the minister, but that
no date had yet been set.

*Lotti Rutter*
Senior Researcher
Policy, Communications and Research

Treatment Action Campaign
Tel: 021 422 1700
Cell: 081 818 8493
Skype: lotti.rutter
Twitter: @FixPatentLaw


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