Dr Motsoaledi calls big pharma 'genocidal'

A war is brewing between SA pharmaceutical companies and Dr Aaron Motsoaledi on the issue of drug patents. At stake are intellectual property rights on patented drugs vs. affordable access to life-saving healthcare for the poor.

The SA Minister of Health was quoted in the Mail & Guardian calling the planned campaign by drug companies against proposed changes to the patent laws ‘a genocide’.  He also described it as conspiracy of 'satanic magnitude’ and called on South Africans to fight it 'to the last drop of their blood’.

In September last year  the department of trade and industry published a draft framework for a new policy on intellectual property (IP). This included patents on life-saving drugs, which Motsoaledi says are crucial to save the lives of many seriously ill South Africans.

In response to this, a document was reportedly drawn up by lobby group Public Affairs Engagement on behalf of a number of multinational drug companies operating in South Africa, represented by the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of SA (Ipsa).

Read the full document here.

According to the Mail & Guardian, the section of the draft policy pertaining to health aimed to weaken protection for drug patents, which would drive down prices for a range of medications, including antiretrovirals and tuberculosis treatment.

The proposals in the draft framework are supported by NGOs working in the field of health, such as  Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).

The issues at stake are emotive ones: intellectual property (IP) rights on patented drugs vs. affordable access to life-saving healthcare for people of limited means. In other words putting corporate profits before the health and well-being of the poor.

Motsoaledi also expressed concern that if the draft policy were to become law, it would affect not only South Africans, but also millions of people in other developing countries around Africa, as well as the rest of the world.

Public Affairs Engagement’s plan intended to send the message that the policy could threaten investment and have negative economic and social consequences.

(Sapa. Susan Erasmus)
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