[Ip-health] Critical breast cancer medicine out of reach due to SA's patent laws

FTPL fixthepatentlaws at gmail.com
Wed Feb 3 08:31:31 PST 2016

*World Cancer Day, 4 Feb: Critical breast cancer medicine out of reach due
to SA's patent laws

Good afternoon,

Ahead of World Cancer Day tomorrow (4 February 2016), the Fix the Patent
is releasing a short video and briefing paper which highlights how *South
Africa’s existing patent laws are a major barrier* for thousands of breast
cancer patients in getting a key cancer medicine called *trastuzumab.*

The short video includes powerful testimonies from three South African HER2
breast cancer patients – among them *actress and breast cancer advocate,
Lillian Dube*, who has lent her support to Fix the Patent Laws.

*Watch the VIDEO here:* https://youtu.be/Vl5AJa7_pDY

*A full explanatory BRIEFER is attached below*.

*INTERVIEWS are available on request*.

The Fix the Patent Laws coalition is calling on the South Africa’s
Department of Trade and Industry to wrap up an arduous seven-year-long
process to update South Africa’s patent laws and end abusive monopolistic
practices that deny patients their right to health.

The Fix the Patent Laws coalition is made up of 18 patient groups
representing people living with several diseases. The coalition, initiated
by Doctors Without Borders and the Treatment Action Campaign, includes the
Cancer Alliance, and Alliance members: the Cancer Association of Southern
Africa and People Living with Cancer.

*What’s the story?*

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Roche has multiple patents on trastuzumab in
South Africa, which it markets as Herceptin or Herclon that could maintain
its position as the only supplier of the drug until 2033.

Roche’s patents on trastuzumab have already expired in the UK, India, and
South Korea, and will expire in the US in 2019

In the South African private sector, HER2 positive breast cancer patients
are often denied coverage for a full 12 month course of trastuzumab by
medical aids due to its high cost, which is R485, 800, or more if higher
dosing is needed.

In the public health system, the vast majority of HER2 positive patients
will never even hear about this drug.

In 2013 Roche earned over R100 million from the sale of Herceptin in South
Africa’s private sector, and approximately US$6.6 billion in global sales
in 2014.

*Why should we care?*

Since the early 2000s, people in South Africa have challenged patents on
medicines that prevented their access to affordable treatment – especially
for HIV drugs. We saw the dramatic drop in price of ARVs when monopoly
patents were challenged. Today, there are 3.2 million people on ARV

*But patients can’t keep fighting costly individual legal battles for
access.* The laws themselves have to change.

The existing patent laws on pharmaceutical products are out of date, and do
not fully utilize legal safeguards to protect public health allowed under
international agreements.

Trastuzumab is a clear example of how South Africa’s current patent laws
allow for monopolistic business practices to exclude people from accessing
affordable medicines.

Lillian Dube, HER2 breast cancer patient, actress and advocate says: “*When
[my doctor] told me that my treatment is half a million the first thing
that came to mind [is], as a cancer survivor and a supporter, I am with
young women and I could see them not being able to access this… There are
women who are 40, 30 and they’ve got small children and then they have to
lose their lives because they cannot afford Herceptin. It should not be
like that.”*

Breast cancer survivor and advocate Louise Turner says*: “If you do not
have the money to buy the drug then you don't have access to it.
Irrespective of where you are in the country you have the right to*
*access to treatment and access to the drugs needed. Hopefully we can make
that change. It will make a huge difference to all women in South Africa."*


In October 2015, Fix the Patent Laws and Doctors Without Borders raised the
alarm over the dangerous lack of access to the key HIV
lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r).

The drug was unavailable for several months because several patents held by
the pharmaceutical company AbbVie ensured it was the sole provider of the
LPV/r – marketed as as ‘Aluvia’.

In December 2015, AbbVie announced an agreement
allow generic manufacturers to produce the drug to prevent erratic supplies.

WATCH a video about the issue HERE


3.2.2016 Trastuzumab explanatory doc FINAL.pdf

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