Doctors Without Borders, as part of the Fix the Patent Laws campaign, applauds South African health minister Aaron Motsoaledi for speaking out against a multinational pharmaceutical coalition and their intent to delay reforms of the country’s intellectual property (IP) laws, through a deceptive internationally bankrolled lobbying campaign. (Mail & Guardian: Motsoaledi: Big pharma’s ‘satanic’ plot is genocide).
“To have foreign companies spending R6m to dissuade government from pushing legislation that promotes access to more affordable medicines is outrageous. The minister is right to take a firm stand against pharmaceutical companies that seek to protect their profit margins at the expense of ordinary South Africans. The government is bringing national law in line with international norms, so they have the ability to take action when inflated prices put crucial medicines out of reach,” said Julia Hill of Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Reform of South Africa’s IP laws is long overdue. Today South Africa’s patent system already benefits international pharmaceutical companies by granting an excessive number of patents, compared to both developed and developing countries. South Africa remains a net importer of pharmaceutical products, to such an extent that it’s the 5th biggest contributor to our trade deficit. Changes to facilitate generic production would have a more positive economic benefit.
“The draft IP policy includes reforms that are not radical. For instance, the proposed patent examination system would reward truly innovative patents and weed out frivolous applications,” said Hill.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is responsible for finalising the IP policy, based on recommendations received during a public comment period on a draft policy late last year.
The DTI has so far shown great fortitude in emphasising balance between interests of business and the government’s Constitutional obligation to protect public health. With the support of the Department of Health we trust the DTI will continue to withstand drug industry pressures, and make every effort to prioritise rapid finalisation of the IP policy, inclusive of public health safeguards.