[Ip-health] Motsoaledi: Big pharma's 'satanic' plot is genocide
Riaz K Tayob
riaz.tayob at gmail.com
Fri Jan 17 01:00:21 PST 2014
Well this is about time.
But some deeper reflection is needed on the progressive left positions
since BigPharma vs Mandela. The "necessity" of access, which I fully
support, reduced focus on structural features of SA knowledge ecosystem.
Necessity has meant that no. of people on treatment was the goal, a
laudable one while systemic features were neglected (understandably so,
but if this is a moment for reflection then:) Systemic features like
local production, currency risk for imported medicines, the DTI's Pan
African Intellectual Property office (in the vanguard is Hamilton
McDonald and WIPO), WHOs innovation for neglected diseases, Economic
Partnership Agreements with Europe, New Public Management at CIPRO (the
known as corrupt companies and intellectual property office) with cost
recovery and shoddy patent standards, the marginalisation of the
Development Agenda (headed in WIPO by the foreign service, but
discounted in practice by DTI), the unaccounted for and untransparent
sharing of biodiversity related to resistant strains of HIV to WHO
(which I suspect is much like what happened with Bird Flu virus). Too
much to do, and too much that is necessary... so this is not a critique
as such, but a reflection on how and why we keep coming back to the same
old crap time and time again.
And look at the drug regime in SA... the private sector price gorges
making SA an inefficient and unsustainable system. The arguments on
competition policy made by the state (or progressive litigants) reflect
a key lack of understanding of the potential for competition policy to
support development (see the arguments in the Wall Mart case for the
silliness of approaches, and also the ruling in the system... when
compared to the US, the Sherman Act is used as a defence of national
monopolies). We have meds provided on a price competition basis (making
local production development a completely different trajectory from
India in its formative stages) - vicious price competition means one
does not have infant industry protection and advantages (of course
public procurement could solve this, but with the dept of health paying
sometimes 5 to 15 times the price of candles and maize meal, budgets are
necessarily short - so not even Black Economic Empowerment is taken
seriously: there can be a simple virtuous circle of black producers
supplying the state as blacks own less than 10 percent of the economy...
but we have a rentier class more interested in commissions than
production (a key difference with South East Asia) - one would have
thought off the shelf technology with long term orders would be viable
as a health and empowerment strategy...
And what use is price competition (on govt purchase of drugs) when we
have one of the most volatile currencies around? We are fast approaching
debt insustainability (aided by the World Bank - hello Kim) and we have
an asset bubble that is yet to burst after rising even higher than that
in in the UK and US. Long term resilience is a problem, and there seems
not to be a well developed agenda that is considered in context.
Let me be clear, absolutely vital and essential work was done by many
many groups on these issues and continues to be done. But necessity is
too demanding meaning some of the systemic issues have been neglected,
and the left has been outmanoeuvred. Even on National Health Insurance,
Motsoaledi is off course, as much of what he is trying to do is already
signed away at the WTO under GATS (Insurance, Finance, and Health
Services). It simply means the DTI or DOH or both are not using the
Interministerial coordination mechanism, or if they are, have not taken
technology as an issue seriously.
Maybe it is just election fever... there are elections soon...
But happy to be guided... and corrected...
On 2014/01/17 07:18 AM, Lotti Rutter wrote:
> Motsoaledi: Big pharma's 'satanic' plot is genocide
> Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi is livid about a pharmaceutical company
> campaign he says will restrict access to crucial drugs.
> Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has accused a group of multinational
> pharmaceutical companies active in South Africa of conspiring against the
> state, the people of South Africa and the populations of developing
> countries – and of planning what amounts to mass murder.
> "I am not using strong words; I am using appropriate words. This is
> genocide," Motsoaledi told the Mail & Guardianon Thursday, in response to a
> plan he described as a conspiracy of "satanic magnitude" – a plan he called
> on all South Africans to fight "to the last drop of their blood".
> The plan in question is a nine-page document obtained independently this
> week by both the M&G and the department of health, blandly titled Campaign
> to Prevent Damage to Innovation from the Proposed Draft National IP Policy
> in South Africa.
> - Read the full document
> But the contents have Motsoaledi spitting fire and nongovernmental
> organisations (NGOs) deeply concerned, and its disclosure will likely lead
> to open war between the various parties – a conflict that all sides believe
> will have inevitable consequences for the long-term health and wealth of a
> significant fraction of the world's population.
> Intellectual property
> The war has been brewing for years, but was brought to a head in September
> last year when the department of trade and industry published a draft
> framework for a new policy on intellectual property (IP), including patents
> over life-saving drugs.
> Much to the delight of organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières
> (MSF), the government's draft policy focuses heavily on health, and on
> reform in the treatment of medical patents. Drug companies with local
> operations were appalled and, evidence suggests, almost immediately started
> work on a plan to change the direction of the policy radically. Instead of
> weaker protections for valuable drug patents, they sought stronger
> By last week that plan had become concrete. The drug companies' umbrella
> body, the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa (Ipasa),
> selected a Washington, DC-based, lobbying firm Public Affairs Engagement
> (PAE) to lead the charge against the policy. PAE, in turn, put forward a
> proposal on how it would effect radical changes to the policy. And it is
> that plan – apparently yet to be implemented – that had Motsoaledi
> incandescent with anger.
> "This document can sentence many South Africans to death," he said. "That
> is no exaggeration. This is a plan for genocide."
> Patent protection
> In coming months, the document shows, PAE intends to launch a persuasive
> campaign throughout Africa and in Europe. It does not speak of genocide or
> of withholding affordable drugs from the people who most need them.
> Instead, it is aimed at indirectly convincing the South African government
> to strengthen, rather than weaken, patent protection for crucial drugs.
> Although the plan contains no hint of crude attempts to buy influence
> directly, and comes nowhere near suggesting means illegal or corrupt, it
> contains elements sure to raise eyebrows. These include:
> - Setting up a "coalition" with an innocuous name such as "Forward South
> Africa", which will be directed from Washington while appearing to be
> locally run;
> - Encouraging other African countries, especially Rwanda and Tanzania,
> to help to convince South Africa that it could lose its leadership role on
> the continent should it push ahead with the draft policy;
> - Distracting NGOs from their own lobbying by changing the nature of the
> debate; and
> - Commissioning "independent" research and opinion pieces for broad
> public dissemination – but vetting all such material before publication to
> ensure it fits the message.
> But the net effect, Motsoaledi said, would be to put corporate profits
> before health – not only in South Africa, but also around the globe.
> "This is using South Africa as an entry point, but this is an attack on
> Brazil, an attack on India … an attack on China, Russia and the whole
> developing world," he said.
> ARV expansion
> Should the campaign succeed, he said, South Africa would not be able to
> afford a planned expansion of its antiretroviral (ARV) provision to people
> living with HIV. Drugs effective against cancer and tuberculosis would
> remain too expensive to do any good, and other countries (such as 14
> African countries intent on following South Africa's lead on ARVs) would
> suffer likewise.
> Motsoaledi vowed that no amount of lobbying would change the minds of
> Cabinet ministers, but said that was not the intent of the PAE plan.
> "They are not hoping to influence government; they are hoping to influence
> society to turn against government. If you read carefully what they are
> saying, they want to prove to patients that the lack of access to medicine
> has nothing to do with IP but everything to do with the incompetence of the
> Such an approach, he said, sought to make HIV-positive people revolt. An
> argument that weak intellectual property protections would "chase away
> investors", meanwhile, was aimed at a large portion of the country, the
> minister said.
> "Anyone who is unemployed, and there are millions of them, can get into
> this war," he said.
> Mobilising voices
> The argument that PAE proposes to put forward on behalf of the drug
> companies is somewhat less pointed.
> "Mobilise voices inside and outside South Africa to send the message that
> the proposed IP policy threatens continued investment and thus economic and
> social wellbeing," it says in a segment of the document summarising the
> strategy and message. "This mobilisation will occur through an energetic
> campaign, which will feel like a political campaign."
> But that campaign would have elements that could, at best, be seen as
> Forward South Africa (FSA), the proposed public face of the campaign, for
> instance, would be "led by a visible South African, most likely a respected
> former government official, business leader or academic". But, at the same
> time, it would be "directed by staff from Public Affairs Engagement and
> PAE's South African partner".
> Nothing in the document suggests that the funding for FSA – estimated at
> $100 000 from Ipasa and another $450 000 from an American association of
> pharmaceutical companies – would be disclosed.
> Cautious response
> Ipsa, asked whether the FSA campaign would in effect be covert, this week
> issued a carefully worded written response. "We would encourage all
> interested parties to be open in their support both for and against
> positions adopted in the debate over policy direction and choices," said
> chief operating officer Val Beaumont.
> "By its nature, any coalition conducting public advocacy would be acting in
> the public domain, with its positions transparent and open to full public
> That is unlikely to be universally accepted. MSF this week described the
> planned campaign as a "covert attempt by the multinational pharmaceutical
> companies to spend extraordinary amounts of money to interfere in South
> Africa's legislative process".
> The Treatment Action Campaign said the entire attempt is "very suspicious".
> Although the first phase of the plan was due to be implemented this week,
> Ipasa said it was still evaluating many proposals.
> "While we have not contracted outside parties to assist us, Ipasa is
> considering various communication strategies and proposals to augment our
> ongoing policy advocacy and communications outreach concerning the draft
> policy," Beaumont said.
> Proposed partner
> PAE's proposed local partner, lobbyist Abdul Waheed Patel from the Cape
> Town-based Ethicore Political Consulting firm, said his company had been
> approached by PAE and had "responded positively", but had not yet been
> Both the South African Institute for Race Relations and the Free Market
> Foundation, cited as possible constituents of the "Forward South Africa"
> front, said they were aware of lobbying but not about the specific plan –
> and would not be willing pawns in it.
> "We act independently and do not join groups if that means adopting some
> form of party line," the foundation said.
> PAE did not respond to detailed questions about its involvement in South
> Africa or the plan to influence the government's IP policy on
> pharmaceuticals. Instead, it issued a short statement that punted the need
> for a thorough discussion of policy on intellectual property, which
> contradicted documents seen by the M&G.
> PAE is headed by former US ambassador James Glassman, who held several
> high-ranking government positions before spending four years as the
> executive director of the George W Bush Institute, where he was involved in
> building a library and museum dedicated to the former president.
> Original idea
> Although the M&G understands that Ipasa set out to find a consultancy to
> advance its agenda, PAE said it had come up with the idea itself.
> "When ambassador Glassman learned in September of the proposed IP policy in
> South Africa, he contacted potential clients," the PAE statement read. "As
> of today [Wednesday], PAE has not been engaged by any client for an
> education campaign in South Africa."
> Motsoaledi, however, seems unlikely to wait for such a contract to be
> entered into. Although organisations such as MSF, the TAC and generic
> medicine manufacturers said they could not match the resources of the
> pharmaceutical industry, the health minister pledged to throw the weight of
> the government behind a countercampaign of its own.
> "We will resort to public engagement," he said. "We will say in public:
> 'These are the conspirators.'"
> He said his department will also call on companies, business associations,
> academics, politicians and the media to disavow the PAE plan publicly.
> The policy that has the drug companies spooked
> On September 4 2013, the trade and industry department published a
> long-awaited draft of a national policy on intellectual property in
> the Government
> Gazette. To the casual reader, it was a fairly standard example of boring
> bureaucratic process. Read from the perspective of a multinational drug
> company, it was a nightmare.
> "The IP [intellectual property] draft is written in vague language, but
> there is no doubting its intent," summarised Washington-based lobby group
> Public Affairs Engagement in its plan to reverse the policy.
> "It justifies a weak IP regime that allows the government to abridge
> intellectual property rights that are well established in the developed
> world. The health section of the draft takes dead aim at innovative
> pharmaceutical companies."
> That analysis is well founded.
> Though the policy framework deals with a wide range of intellectual
> property and its application to everything from agriculture to science, it
> dwells on the issue of access to medicine at almost every turn.
> It is suspicious of multinational companies and the multilateral
> organisations sympathetic to them, encourages seeking advice from
> nongovernmental organisations rather than developed countries, and urges
> policymakers to put the interests of consumers first, rather than the
> interests of intellectual property "producers".
> In a framework for policy, the department notes and recommends, among other
> things, that:
> - Provision should be made for the compulsory licensing of crucial drugs
> at the lower of two typical rates of payment. This would allow the state to
> assign the right to make a drug to a third party with only limited
> compensation to the owner;
> - Provision should be made for the parallel importation of drugs. This
> denies drug companies the opportunity to charge more for a drug in South
> African than elsewhere in the world because it could be imported from the
> lower-price territory, whether the patent owner approved or not;
> - Patents for drugs should be conditional on an examination to ensure
> that the drug is new or innovative, and should not be automatically granted;
> - Generally, "patent flexibility" for medicine should be made a matter
> of law;
> - The holders of intellectual property rights, such as drug companies,
> should be encouraged to protect their own rights rather than depending on
> state institutions, such as the police or customs, to do so; and
> - South Africa should seek to influence the region, and the world, to
> move towards its vision of intellectual property protection.
> The draft does not yet have any status as policy, and was open for public
> comment. To what extent those comments, including submissions from
> pharmaceutical companies, may sway the department is not yet known. The
> department was this week still processing responses.
> But the local subsidiaries of drug companies are taking no chances on that
> "Without a vigorous campaign, opponents of strong IP will prevail," wrote
> the American lobbyists hired to launch a countercampaign, "not just in
> South Africa, but eventually in much of the rest of the developing world."
> *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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