Lotti Rutter lotti.rutter at mail.tac.org.za
Tue Jun 2 03:42:06 PDT 2015



*Expanded coalition calls for urgent approval of National Policy on
Intellectual Property*

*JOHANNESBURG, 2nd JUNE 2015: *Today, patient groups and other leading
health organisations in South Africa have joined the Fix the Patent Laws
campaign to push for reform of the country’s current patent laws that
severely restrict access to affordable medicines for all people living in
South Africa. Together, they call on the government to urgently finalise a
National Policy on Intellectual Property that champions measures to reduce
prices and increase access to a wide range of medicines for people in need
across South Africa.

Twelve organisations have joined the Fix the Patent Laws campaign in
calling for progressive patent law reforms. These organisations are: People
Living With Cancer (PLWC), the South African Depression and Anxiety Group
(SADAG), DiabetesSA, CanSurvive, the SA Federation for Mental Health
(SAFMH), Stop Stock Outs, the Cancer Association of Southern Africa
(CANSA), the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Alliance (SABDA), the South
African Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (SANCD Alliance), Marie Stopes,
Epilepsy South Africa and Cape Mental Health.

The expanded coalition of organisations represents public and private
sector patients in South Africa seeking treatment and care for a range of
cancers, mental illnesses, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases -
as well as tuberculosis, HIV and sexual and reproductive health.

South Africa currently grants patents on almost every patent application it
receives, allowing companies to maintain lengthy monopoly periods on
medicines. This keeps prices of many medicines higher in South Africa than
in many other countries.

“Some cancer patients would rather go to other countries, like India, for
treatment – the combined cost of the flight, medical services and drugs is
cheaper than buying the drugs alone in South Africa,” Bernice Lass of
cancer group, CanSurvive, pointed out.

“For patients, caregivers and their loved ones, going through cancer can be
a devastating experience,” explained Magdalene Seguin of the Cancer
Association of South Africa (CANSA). “CANSA is contacted on a regular basis
by patients who don’t have access to medication due to the high cost. CANSA
supports that patent legislation in South Africa be amended urgently to
ensure access to new affordable and life-saving cancer medications.”

People Living with Cancer put its full weight behind the Fix the Patent
Laws campaign because, as Linda Greeff explained, “we want to ensure that
there is proper scrutiny of patent applications before patents are granted.
We want a patent granting process that is ethical and transparent, so that
more people can access the medicines that they need.”

Charlene Sunkel from the SA Federation for Mental Health stressed that
“high medicine prices prevent mental health patients from accessing the
medicines that they need – especially the new generation of medications
which often have fewer side effects and cover a broader spectrum of

Cassey Chambers of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group
explained: “We deal with patients everyday who cannot afford medication or
treatment, and as a result become more depressed, helpless, hopeless and
even suicidal in some cases.”

DiabetesSA’s Keegan Hall stressed that as health organisations, “we have an
obligation to take steps to improve affordability and access to medicines.
The cost of insulin and other diabetes management tools are far too
expensive for many patients,” Hall added.

Health organisations joining the Fix the Patent Laws campaign recognise the
opportunity South Africa has to improve access to medicines for all
diseases through reforming problematic patent laws.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has already embarked on the
process of legislative reform, releasing a Draft National Policy on
Intellectual Property for public comment in 2013. The draft policy
contained important commitments to reform the laws in order to restore the
balance between public and private interest, in favour of people’s health.
Following the adoption of a finalised policy by Cabinet, bills to amend
intellectual property legislation in South Africa will be brought before

The expanded Fix the Patent Laws coalition calls for urgent approval of a
finalised National Policy on Intellectual Property, as a critical first
step toward reform of problematic patent laws and practices that deprive
people living in South Africa of more affordable treatments for all


(See additional background on the campaign below media contacts).

Kate Ribet, Deputy Head of Communication, MSF SA
+27 79 872 2950, kate.ribet at joburg.msf.org

Lotti Rutter, Senior Researcher, TAC
+27 81 818 8493 <http://localhost/tel/%252B27%2081%20818%208493>,
lotti.rutter at tac.org.za

Linda Greef, Director, People Living With Cancer
+27 82 551 3310, linda.greeff at cancercare.co.za

Vicki Pinkney-Atkinson, Strategic Development Manager, SA NCD Alliance
+27 83 383 8159, vicki at phango.org.za

Cassey Chambers, Operations Director, SADAG
+27 82 835 7650, office at anxiety.org.za
<office at anxiety.org.za%22%20%5Ct%20%22_blank>

Keegan Hall, Marketing Coordinator, DiabetesSA
+27 86 111 3919, marketing at diabetessa.org.za

Bernice Lass, Co-Founder, CanSurvive
+27 83 444 5182, bernicelass at outlook.com

Bella Hwang, Project Manager, Stop the Stock Outs
+27 79 897 8518, msfocb-capetown-mhealth at brussels.msf.org

Charlene Sunkel, Program Manager: Advocacy & Development, SAFMH
+27 11 781 1852, charlene at safmh.org

Magdalene Seguin, Acting Head of Advocacy, CANSA
+27 73 998 5912, mseguin at cansa.org.za

Andrea Thompson, Communications Director, Marie Stopes
+27 21 422 4096, andrea.thompson at mariestopes.org.za

Chanelle Albertyn, PR and Communications Manager, Cape Mental Health
+ 27 21 447 2416, chanelle at cmh.org.za

Ronald Creasy, Chairman, SABDA
+27 11 326 0661, creasy at iburst.co.za


The Fix the Patent Laws campaign was initiated by the Treatment Action
Campaign (TAC) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in 2011. The campaign
calls on the DTI to remedy shortcomings in South Africa’s current
intellectual property legislation that allow for excessive patenting of
medicines – at the expense of affordable access. It is estimated that 80%
of patents granted in South Africa do not meet the country’s patentability
criteria. This is largely due to the fact that patents are granted without
substantive examination of applications to ensure that patentability
criteria are met.

As a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), South Africa is required
to uphold minimum standards of intellectual property protection as defined
by the international Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual
Property Rights (TRIPS). This includes granting 20-year patents on
medicines. However, South Africa also has significant flexibility under
TRIPS to amend national legislation, in order to improve access to
medicines. Reforms could include the government taking measures to limit
abusive patents being granted on medicines. At the same time, government
could establish easier procedures for overcoming legitimate patent
barriers, when medicines are unaffordable, unavailable, or not adapted for
patient needs.

The Fix the Patent Laws coalition is calling on the Department of Trade and
Industry to release a final version of the National Intellectual Policy,
committing to adoption of a number of key reforms within a reasonable
timeframe. These reforms are detailed in a submission to the DTI by TAC,
MSF and SECTION27 at: http://www.fixthepatentlaws.org/?p=764

More information on the campaign can be found at:

*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* <http://www.tac.org.za/>

More information about the Ip-health mailing list