[Ip-health] thepharmaletter- Pharma Summit: AIDS activists picket to demand South African reform

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Mar 14 11:09:49 PDT 2014

Pharma Summit: AIDS activists picket to demand South African reform
Delegates at The Economist's Pharma Summit in London yesterday were greeted
by AIDS activists picketing the entrance as they arrived.
The activists from STOPAIDS were protesting against what they called
industry attacks on South Africa's patent law reforms. South Africa does
not currently review patent applications, leading to more patents being
granted there than in either the USA or European Union. Many companies make
small changes to their drugs and file new patents in order to maintain
their monopoly in a practice known as 'ever-greening'. By reforming the
law, activists say that South Africa can increase access to affordable
medicines for some of their poorest people.
Wrapped in South African flags the protesters lay on the ground as
delegates entered the Dorchester hotel in front of a banner reading 'Big
Pharma - walking all over South Africans to turn a profit.' The activists
say they represented the millions of people living in South Africa who are
prevented from accessing medicines because of high prices caused by the
current patent laws. The demonstration was linked to a leaked strategy
document which the activists say revealed pharma giant Merck & Co (NYSE:
MRK) as "the ringleader of a secret big-money plot to derail a South
African government plan to overhaul the nation's patent laws."
*Lifesaving reforms*
Diarmaid McDonald, from STOPAIDS who took part in the demonstration, said:
"Inside the Dorchester today are the architects of a shameful attack on the
health of poor South Africans. Companies like MSD, Pfizer, Sanofi Aventis
and AstraZeneca are discussing how to grow their profits. They have clearly
decided an acceptable way of doing that is to block reforms designed to
improve public health. In South Africa they tried to hijack the democratic
process by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a myth-pedaling
campaign to protect their profits at the cost of the lives of people who
need access to affordable medicines.
"We're here to demand that they drop this attack on South African's right
to health. We call on the South African government to press ahead with
these lifesaving reforms. MSD and big pharma must stop trying to walk all
over South Africans in order to turn a profit."
*'Broken business model'*
Inside the summit, Rohit Malpani, director of policy and analysis for *Medecins
Sans Frontieres* Access Campaign, took advantage of the first Q&A session
to ask the panel about access issues. He told the panel that South Africa
pays the highest prices and that "your medicines don't reach our patients",
calling it a "broken business model".
Richard Bergstrom, director general of the European Federation of
Industries and Associations, said there were many other documents about
sustainable access programs which hadn't been leaked, which look at new
access solutions such as tiered pricing. "It's about realizing that you
need alternative medicines, there's nothing wrong with that," he said. "The
business model is compatible with more innovation."
The protest was coordinated with a Treatment Action Campaign and MSF action
in South Africa where activists marched to ask the Department of Trade and
Industry to resist pharmaceutical industry pressure and complete the patent
reform process before the general elections.

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