[Ip-health] Guardian: South African pharma firms accused of planning to delay patents law reform

Lotti Rutter lotti.rutter at mail.tac.org.za
Fri Jan 17 00:48:43 PST 2014


South African pharma firms accused of planning to delay patents law reform
Leaked documents reveal lobbying proposals to delay laws that would allow
fast introduction of generic medicines
Drug companies in South Africa <http://www.theguardian.com/world/africa> have
been accused of planning a covert, well-funded campaign to delay the
introduction of laws that threaten their profits. Leaked documents show
that pharmaceutical companies planned a $450,000 campaign, involving a
high-profile consultancy based in Washington, DC, against changes to
property <http://www.theguardian.com/law/intellectual-property> laws that
would enable their patents on new medicines to be bypassed in the interests
of public health. This would allow the manufacture of cheaper copies of
their medicines.

Campaigners accused the international drug giants of trying to derail
life-saving legislation. The trade body IPASA (Innovative Pharmaceutical
Industry Association South
which was coordinating the campaign, said on Thursday the plans were no
longer going ahead – although it was legitimate for drug companies to
promote their views in this way.

One of the leaked documents is an email dated 10 January from a member of
IPASA's executive to representatives of most of the big-name drug companies
operating in South Africa. As agreed in December, it says, "we have moved
ahead in identifying a high-calibre consultancy group to work with us",
naming Washington-based Public Affairs Engagement (PAE).

The second document is the proposed PAE strategy, involving the creation of
an alliance of businesspeople and academics, the placement of prominent
editorials in newspapers, and a bid to "distract" access to medicine
campaigners "from their own aggressive campaign".

The document later names Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Treatment
Action Campaign (TAC), calling them a "coalition that was formed to
pressure the government into producing [the draft IP policy] in the first

The stakes are high, says the document. "South Africa is now ground zero
for the debate on the value of strong IP protection. If the battle is lost
here, the effects will resonate. Clearly MSF and similar NGOs understand
that ... Without a vigorous campaign, opponents of strong IP will prevail –
not just in South Africa but eventually in much of the rest of the
developing world."

Campaigners said they were shocked. "What is surprising to us is that it is
done so subversively," said Julia Hill of MSF. "We have really made an
effort to be very transparent. It is disappointing that this is being done
in secret and that such an extraordinary amount of money is being spent to
interfere with the democratic process."

Lotti Rutter, a senior researcher at TAC, said: "We have got massive
concerns over what appears to be quite a covert and well-funded atempt from
foreign industry to delay an essential law reform process happening here in
South Africa."

Val Beaumont of IPASA said the discussions had taken place but the PAE
proposal had not been accepted. "It is a very, very important issue to us
and it will be to any of the knowledge-based organisations," she said.
"There was a huge concern that it would be rushed." It was OK for an
organisation to have a PR agency to help put across its views, she said.


*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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