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Patient Groups March for Access to Medicines in South Africa

24 October 2017 – Pretoria: More than 1,000 members of the Fix the Patent Laws Coalition (FTPL), of which CANSA is a member, will march to the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) rallying in support of government’s efforts to fix South Africa’s patent laws and remind law makers that people’s lives depend on the rapid conclusion of this law reform process.

The FPTL coalition will also hand over its in-depth submission in support of the draft Intellectual Property (IP) Policy and a new report documenting the dire inaccessibility of cancer medicines due to patent barriers. The dti first released the draft policy in August 2017.

CANSA calls for SA patent laws to be revised…

The rally is near the first anniversary of the tragic passing of Tobeka Daki – a prominent FTPL activist and a mother of two who fought HER2+ breast cancer. In 2016, Daki couldn’t afford the medicine she needed, trastuzumab, due to its exorbitant price tag of almost R500, 000 per year. Roche, the pharmaceutical corporation that makes trastuzumab, has a protected patent monopoly on the drug enabling this high price.

The cancer medicines report highlights that the case of trastuzumab is not unique:

  • Of the 24 cancer medicines examined in the report, 15 are available in India for less than half of the price offered in the South African private sector.
  • In the most extreme case, a year’s supply of the drug lenalidomide, is priced at R882,000 in South Africa compared to less than R32,000 in India.
  • The report confirms earlier research showing that South Africa grants large numbers of secondary patents that are often rejected in other countries – which is a critical factor driving the large price differences observed for the same medicines in South Africa and India.

“It seems that the dti has woken up to the fact that it’s time to put people’s health over pharmaceutical corporations’ profits. The cancer report indicates just how urgent this is, which is why we want to show our support for this draft IP policy,” says Salome Meyer of the Cancer Alliance. “This is South Africa’s chance to be a global role model in this area and we are ready to push Parliament next year to make this a reality.”

While the new medicines report highlights the serious issues in accessing many cancer treatments as a result of South Africa’s current patent laws, this is only one disease among many facing these problems. People across the country suffering from diseases ranging from HIV and TB, to epilepsy, to mental illness are all affected by similar access problems as a result of patent barriers, and it is the widespread nature of this issue that makes the finalising of patent law reforms all the more urgent.

1. Cancer Medicines Report:

Download PDF: “Exploring patent barriers to cancer treatment access in South Africa: 24 medicine case studies”

The Cancer Alliance and Fix the Patent Laws today launched a new medicines report that outlines 24 specific cancer medicines that people have struggled to access as a result of patent barriers in South Africa.

2. Submission to dti:

Download PDF: Submission of the Fix the Patent Laws Campaign

The submission comes two months since the dti finally released a new draft IP Policy. The draft policy is landmark for South Africa, sixteen years after the signing the Doha Declaration on Public Health – a critical international agreement, that confirmed countries’ ability to amend their laws to incorporate public health safeguards.

The move was welcomed by 36 patient advocacy groups who make up FTPL. They described it as progressive and positive step towards advancing the constitutionally guaranteed right of access to health care services and access to affordable drugs.

3. Timeline of Patent Law Reform in SA:

Download PDF: Timeline Patent Law ReformView Infographic

The Next Steps

Memorandum and next steps…

About the Fix the Patent Laws Campaign:

The Fix the Patent Laws campaign is a joint coalition of 36 patient groups, including: AmaBele Belles’ Project Flamingo, Breast Course 4 Nurses, Breast Health Foundation (BHF), Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), Can-Sir, CanSurvive Cancer Support, Cape Mental Health (CMH), Childhood Cancer Foundation of South Africa (CHOC), DiabetesSA, Doctors without Borders (MSF), EpilepsySA, Hospice Palliative Care Association (HPCA), Igazi Foundation, Lymphoedema Association of South Africa (LAOSA), Look Good Feel Better, Marie Stopes South Africa, Men’s Foundation, National Council Against Smoking, Oncology Nursing Association of SA, Pancreatic Cancer Network of SA, People Living With Cancer (PLWC), Pink Trees for Pauline, Pocket Cancer Support, Rainbows and Smiles, Reach for Recovery, Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorders Alliance (SABDA), SECTION27, South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), South African Federation of Mental Health (SAFMH), South African Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (SANCD Alliance), Stop Stock Outs Project (SSP), The Pink Parasol Project, The Sunflower Fund, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Vrede Foundation, and Wings of Hope.



Lorraine Govender (CANSA Advocacy)

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