#PharmaGate: South Africa’s Push for Patent Law Reforms Exposes Both Government and Drug Companies

The Mail and Guardian (M&G) newspaper in South Africa published a story titled: “Motsoaledi: Big pharma’s ‘satanic’ plot is genocide” where it is reported that Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi is livid about a pharmaceutical company campaign he says will restrict access to crucial drugs. This plan which was leaked to the press is now at the heart of the so-called #PharmaGate scandal which has received widespread condemnation.

All in all, this blogger submits that #PharmaGate exposes the South Africa government’s criticized track record with regard to implementation of existing laws relating to access to medicines. In addition, the Trade and Industry’s Ministry unsatisfactory drafting of the DNIPP is exposed once more. Therefore the Health Minister’s latest sensationalist remarks reported by the M&G appear to be intend to deflect attention from the above issues of poor implementation and drafting by the Executive branch. As for the drug companies, #PharmaGate only exposes the capitalist and pro-intellectual property (IP) ownership stance of Big Pharma, aptly captured in the critically acclaimed documentary, “Fire in The Blood”, whose trailer is featured above.

Read the full story here.

#TellACABoss Online Debate: Balancing Protection of Public Health and Intellectual Property in Kenya

counterfeit-drugs

This blogger has inadvertently stirred a heated debate on social media involving health activists who are actively engaging the government to review Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Act. This blogger alerted the twitter accounts of Aids Law Project (ALP), the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) and the CEO of ACA to an article published on the CIPIT blog by Paul Ogendi – Deputy Director at ALP. In this article ALP raised concerns on the goverment’s implementation of the High Court’s judgment in Patricia Asero Ochieng & 2 Others vs Attorney General. This landmark decision declared the Anti-Counterfeit Act unconstitutional because of its provisions affecting access to essential medicines including generics. In his twitter response, Stephen Mallowah the ACA CEO stated as follows:-

These responses by the ACA sparked off a spirited twitter campaign under the hashtag #TellACABoss where various health activists reaffirmed that the constitutional rights of people living with and affected by HIV, TB and Malaria remain threatened unless the Anti-Counterfeit Act is reviewed particularly section 2 which defines “counterfeit”.

Read the rest of this article here.

Access to Medicines in the Developing World: No to Evergreening in Novartis Case and No to Patent Linkage in Patricia Asero Case

As part of the World IP Day 2013 activities in Kenya, CIPIT will host a special intellectual property (IP) debate organised by the Aids Law Project (ALP) between students drawn from the local universities. The topic of this debate is: how the Novartis and Patricia Asero court decisions affect public health in developing countries. Although this blogger will not be able to attend the debate in person, what follows are a few ruminations on this debate topic.

The Supreme Court of India judgment in the Novartis case and the High Court of Kenya judgment in the Patricia Asero case seem to have one common consequence: making pharmaceutical companies very unhappy. Both these cases have placed the spotlight on the generic drugs industry. In the developing world, where few people can afford original patented medicines, many opt for generic versions of the same drugs that are sold for as little as 1/10th of the price of the original product. Therefore, what generics companies do essentially is to replicate drugs that are no longer protected by patents. This leaves the pharmaceutical companies with two main issues to deal with: Firstly how do they “extend” patent protection for their well-known drugs? Secondly how do they ensure strict IP enforcement in respect to their patented drugs? The first issue is illustrated in the Novartis case and the second issue appears in the Patricia Asero case.

Read the rest of this article over at the CIPIT Law Blog here.

Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Act: Intellectual Property and Constitutionalism Collide

In 2009, three HIV/AIDS patients petitioned the Constitutional Court to declare the Anti-Counterfeit Act illegal because it could deny them access to generic medicines. The move sought to have the 2008 Anti-Counterfeiting Act made unconstitutional on the grounds that it could rob them of their right to life.

The Constitutional Court is due to deliver a verdict on March 9, 2012. As one of the petitioners in this case explains:

“The court will rule on whether, the Kenya Anti-Counterfeit Act of 2008 which was enacted by the national parliament infringes on the right to access more affordable medicines especially for treatment of HIV and other public health challenges. Depending on the decision, it is widely expected that this case , the first legal challenge in Africa against a new push for anti-counterfeit legislation, could have significant implications on other countries preparing similar laws.”

Public health advocates have consistently argued that the Anti-Counterfeit Act’s definition of what constitutes a counterfeit product is too vague, and could be used to block the import and local manufacture of generic drugs. The Act is so broad that it could, for example, allow a pharmaceutical company to charge legitimately produced generics as counterfeits in Kenya even if its patent is not registered there, which is argued to be “against the whole principle of territorial application of IP rights”.

Continue reading