[Ip-health] (Fwd) Patent law still limits medicines access: new campaign led by TAC

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Mon Oct 20 04:49:18 PDT 2014



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 

“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 
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 
<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 <mailto:kate.ribet at joburg.msf.org> | 079 872 
2950 <tel:079%20872%202950> | www.msf.org.za <http://www.msf.org.za/>

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