South Africa’s 5 million people living with HIV, tuberculosis and cancer will have cheaper generics access to the latest generation of ARV treatment if the draft National Policy on Intellectual Property, recently published by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, is passed into law.
A non-governmental organisation, Doctors Without Borders said the intellectual property policy proposal would also be critical in determining whether they can start providing key multi-drug resistant tuberculosis medicines in their treatment programmes.
If signed into law it would pave the way for the local production of cheaper generic medicines and parallel importation of medicines from different countries.
The bill is tipped also to enable medical aid schemes to pay for new cancer medicines for their members.
“We had a case where a woman with a different kind of cancer ended up taking her medical scheme to court because they had refused to pay for her treatment based on costs,” Doctors Without Borders advocacy officer Julia Hill said yesterday.
“Newer cancer medicines are very expensive but there are other generics which we cannot access due to legal technicalities. The new patent laws in the draft piece of legislation will help us access drugs of similar strength from other countries and also pave the way for the local production of generic medicines.”
Relevant stakeholders and the public have up to September 30 to comment and make recommendations to the bill.
“The draft policy has a clause that permits parallel importation of medicines. This means the health department will be able to compare prices of similar medicines in different countries to get cheaper imports,” Board of Healthcare Funders spokesperson Heidi Kruger said yesterday.
Kruger also said “compulsory patent licences” could, under the proposed policy, be awarded to multiple manufacturers to avoid patent abuse and promote competition while lowering costs.
Two HIV and Aids treatment pressure groups, the Treatment Action Campaign and Section 27, also threw their weight behind the proposed piece of legislation, saying it “lays a foundation to prevent abusive patents from blocking access to affordable medicines”.
Doctors Without Borders, the Treatment Action Campaign and Section 27 said in a joint statement: “While the policy consultation is only the start of the legislative process, the principles outlined in the document sets the stage for changes that promise to increase competition in the pharmaceutical sector and lower the price of medicines in South Africa.”
Via The New Age.
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