Experts say the draft intellectual property laws are laughable.
The Fix the Patent Laws (FTPL) Campaign issued a press release on 29 October, announcing that it had called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) “to end years of pharmaceutical company price-gouging and broken promises for patent law reform, and produce a final intellectual property (IP) policy and bill to amend the Patents Act.”
The FTPL justified its call by saying that the prices of certain medicines for cancer, HIV and mental health “remain significantly higher in South Africa than in other countries, which prevents significant numbers of patients from getting the medicines they need”.
It said that it had drawn DTI Minister Rob Davies’s attention to the fact that there were a number medicines “for which generic and biosimilar products are available outside South Africa, but are blocked locally due to South Africa’s problematic patent laws”.
The FTPL placed much of the blame at the door of the drugs companies, talking of “significant efforts made by the large multinational pharmaceutical industry in the US and Europe to sideline reform”, and the so-called “Pharmagate” plot, “in which international pharmaceutical companies sought to influence South Africa’s patent law reform process through a US-directed and funded front organisation”.
(When talk of this “plot” first emerged last year, Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi reacted in a way that certainly caught people’s attention, accusing the big drugs companies of being involved in an IP conspiracy of “satanic magnitude” and a “plan for genocide”).