[Ip-health] NATIONAL SUMMIT DEMANDS IMMEDIATE PATENT LAW REFORM TO BRING DOWN PRICES OF MEDICINES

Lotti Rutter lotti.rutter at mail.tac.org.za
Mon Oct 20 01:54:01 PDT 2014


NATIONAL SUMMIT DEMANDS IMMEDIATE PATENT LAW REFORM TO BRING DOWN PRICES OF
MEDICINES

http://www.tac.org.za/news/national-summit-demands-immediate-patent-law-reform-bring-down-prices-medicines

October 20th, 2014—PRETORIA: Patients, doctors and members of civil society
meet today with government experts to plot a course for quickly reforming
South Africa’s patent laws, so that people can access the life-saving
medicines they need at affordable prices. The National Summit on
Intellectual Property (IP) and Access to Medicines in Pretoria was
organised by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) which is leading the “Fix
the Patents Laws’ coalition of 13 other civil society organisations.

“My husband took out two loans amounting to R70,000 and my father felt it
was his duty to work overseas in order to help pay for this drug I needed,
linezolid
<https://www.msf.org.za/sites/msf.org.za/files/msf_linezolid_factsheet.pdf>,”
said Andaleeb Rinquest, who is completing her treatment for extensively
drug-resistant tuberculosis. “The government needs to fix the patent laws
so people and their families do not go broke trying to pay for life-saving
medicines.”

One year ago, the public comment period closed
<http://www.ip-watch.org/2013/11/18/comments-received-to-south-africas-process-for-new-ip-policy/>
on
the government’s Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property. The draft
policy outlined bold reforms which, once implemented, would limit abusive
pharmaceutical patent monopolies in South Africa. If reforms go ahead, new
laws would lower drug prices for individuals and government by eliminating
unnecessary patents and stimulating competition from generic drug
companies. Multiple deadlines
<http://msf.org.za/msf-publications/new-age-mps-set-to-tackle-vital-patent-legislation-on-medicines>
announced
by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for finalising the policy
have come and gone in the past year.

South Africa has faced intense pressure from multinational drug companies
seeking to delay patent law reform designed to lower medicine prices.
Earlier this year, the “PharmaGate” scandal revealed
<http://keionline.org/node/1908> a $600,000 plot by 25 multinational
pharmaceutical companies to covertly delay the finalisation of the
country’s IP policy until after May’s national elections.

While the PharmaGate plot was publically exposed and widely criticised, the
plot’s stated aim of delaying the process was nevertheless achieved. At the
same time, nearly 50,000 people worldwide have signed on
<https://www.change.org/p/stop-big-pharma-s-plot-to-keep-drugs-unaffordable>
 to petitions <http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/956/483/928/>
supporting
the government to resist industry pressure and prioritise patent law reform.

“Our government has to show whether they serve the people of South Africa,
or the multinational pharmaceutical companies behind the PharmaGate plot.
Section 27 of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution places a legal
obligation on the state to put the health of the people first,” said TAC
General Secretary, Anele Yawa. “While we wait for patent law reform, South
Africans go without medicines that could save their lives.”

Doctors also spoke out at the Summit today. “I can’t offer entecavir
<http://www.fixthepatentlaws.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Entecavir_Final1LD1.pdf>
to
patients with hepatitis B & kidney disease—it costs over R4700 per month,”
says Dr. Monique Andersson. “Only eight patients in the entire country
access entecavir, but hundreds could benefit from less expensive
alternatives if South Africa stopped granting further patents on this drug.”

At the Summit, activists presented government representatives with copies
of anopen letter <http://bit.ly/1tzDvn6> to President Jacob Zuma and the
Minister of Trade and Industry, signed by over 80 organisations and
individuals from across the globe, including the former United Nations
Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, and Nobel Prize winner
in Physiology or Medicine, John Sulston.

The open letter demonstrated strong support for the government to resist
industry pressure, as it had done in the past when 39 multinational
pharmaceutical companies took Nelson Mandela’s government to court over
amendments to the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act. The letter
encouraged President Zuma to have his government immediately finalise an IP
policy that prioritises the lives and wellbeing of its people over the
private interests of pharmaceutical companies.

For further information, please contact:
Kate Ribet, Media Liaison Officer, MSF SA
kate.ribet at joburg.msf.org | 079 872 2950 | www.msf.org.za

--
*Lotti Rutter*
Senior Researcher
Policy, Communications and Research

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

www.tac.org.za
www.fixthepatentlaws.org



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