protest access to medicines

Donning t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, “No more delays, fix the patent laws in 2016,” about 60 activists gathered outside the Sandton Holiday Inn yesterday where they delivered a four-page letter of demands to members of a high-level United Nations panel. The panel is currently reviewing how the needs of drug innovators can be balanced against patients’ need for affordable treatment. Globally, pharmaceutical companies continue to argue that the need to recoup research and development costs continue to drive high drug prices however activists say this is not always the case.

Among protesters’ demands was that governments fund the research and development of new medicines. The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has advocated for this previously especially in regards to developing new tuberculosis medicines.

In South Africa, activists have also blamed a lack of rigorous patent examination for allowing companies to gain unnecessary patents. Improved patent examination is just one of the features that organisations like TAC and the South African Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Alliance will be hoping to see in the Department of Trade and Industry’s (dti) new intellectual property policy. The dti is expected to release a second draft of a proposed policy soon for public comment.

The have’s and the have not’s

Breast cancer patient Tobeka Daki

Breast cancer survivor Tobeka Daki is convinced that if she had been given access to the cancer drug Herceptin, her cancer never would have spread.