Fix The Patent Laws


Posted on | June 15, 2015 | No Comments

Expanded coalition calls for urgent approval of National Policy on Intellectual Property

JOHANNESBURG, 2nd JUNE 2015: Today, patient groups and other leading health organisations in South Africa have joined the Fix the Patent Laws campaign to push for reform of the country’s current patent laws that severely restrict access to affordable medicines for all people living in South Africa. Together, they call on the government to urgently finalise a National Policy on Intellectual Property that champions measures to reduce prices and increase access to a wide range of medicines for people in need across South Africa.

Twelve organisations have joined the Fix the Patent Laws campaign in calling for progressive patent law reforms. These organisations are: People Living With Cancer (PLWC), the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), DiabetesSA, CanSurvive, the SA Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH), Stop Stock Outs, the Cancer Association of Southern Africa (CANSA), the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Alliance (SABDA), the South African Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (SANCD Alliance), Marie Stopes, Epilepsy South Africa and Cape Mental Health.
Read more


Posted on | June 15, 2015 | No Comments

THURSDAY 5th FEBRUARY, CAPE TOWN: Yesterday, on World Cancer Day , People Living With Cancer – a South African support group representing thousands of patients – publically signed on to support the Fix the Patent Laws campaign. The campaign aims to ensure access to affordable medicines for all people living in South Africa including those affected by cancer. The campaign was started in November 2011 by the Treatment Action Campaign, Doctors without Borders and SECTION27.

“Often the price tags on cancer drugs in this country are unacceptably high. Newer, more effective medicines can be so expensive that sometimes they are completely unavailable to patients in the public sector,” said Linda Greef of People Living With Cancer. “Even private medical aid schemes can refuse to cover the medicine in full because it would raise premiums for all members. The lucky ones are forced to pay out of pocket or battle with medical aid schemes to get access to the right drugs. Others are simply unable to access the medicines that would save or extend their lives.”
Read more


Posted on | June 15, 2015 | No Comments

JOHANNESBURG, Tuesday 20th January: The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SECTION27 applaud India’s decision to reject a patent application on sofosbuvir, an important new treatment for Hepatitis C. Last Wednesday’s decision paves the way for increased access to more affordable sofosbuvir in India and other countries who choose to implement legal flexibilities available under international law to increase access to the drug. However, existing patents on sofosbuvir in South Africa could block access to the cheaper generic versions that will become available due to the ruling.  The government should therefore urgently finalise the national intellectual property policy to allow South Africa to better protect access to medicines.

Hepatitis C is a curable disease that affects over 185 million people and leads to nearly half a million deaths worldwide each year. As many as one million people in South Africa may be infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Sofosbuvir has fewer side effects, is easier for patients to take, and has higher cure rates than existing treatments. However, sofosbuvir is not yet registered or available in South Africa, and existing patent barriers could hinder the country from looking for multiple generic sources of the drug in order to get the most affordable prices.
Read more

Open Letter: Promoting Access to Affordable Medicines in South Africa through Patent Law Reform

Posted on | June 15, 2015 | No Comments

17 October 2014 – Open letter to President Jacob Zuma and Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies

This is an open letter from individuals and organisations concerned with the ability of people everywhere to have access to medicines which save lives and enhance quality of life. We are writing in support of the South African government’s longstanding efforts to revise their patent laws in order to better safeguard and promote the availability of generic medicines at more affordable prices. The international community is behind South Africa—as it has been in the past—to prioritise the lives and wellbeing of its people over the private interests of pharmaceutical companies.

We encourage the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to immediately release the final version of its National Policy on Intellectual Property, inclusive of clear language outlining reforms that advance South Africa’s constitutional right to have access to health care services.

Read more


Posted on | June 15, 2015 | No Comments

October 20th, 2014—PRETORIA: Patients, doctors and members of civil society meet today with government experts to plot a course for quickly reforming South Africa’s patent laws, so that people can access the life-saving medicines they need at affordable prices. The National Summit on Intellectual Property (IP) and Access to Medicines in Pretoria was organised by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) which is leading the “Fix the Patents Laws’ coalition of 13 other civil society organisations.

“My husband took out two loans amounting to R70,000 and my father felt it was his duty to work overseas in order to help pay for this drug I needed, linezolid,” said Andaleeb Rinquest, who is completing her treatment for extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis. “The government needs to fix the patent laws so people and their families do not go broke trying to pay for life-saving medicines.”
Read more

Accessing oral contraceptives, hepatitis B drugs and medicines for depression

Posted on | October 16, 2014 | No Comments

The South African Constitution guarantees the right to have access to healthcare services, and places a positive obligation upon the state to take measures that progressively realise that right. However, often people don’t have access to the medicines they need in South Africa because lifesaving drugs are priced out of reach, while cheaper generics are prevented from entering the market due to patent barriers. This affects all types of drugs: treatments for drug-resistant tuberculosis, cancer, hepatitis, newer antiretroviral medications for HIV, and oral contraceptives.

Read more about the following medicine examples

Why we need to Fix the Patent Laws in South Africa:

Polar Opposite Prices for Antipsychotic Aripiprazole

Oral Contraceptives: Yasmin®,Yaz® and Ruby®

Entecavir and Hepatitis B

Sorafenib & Cancer Treatment

Court Case Blocks Cheaper Version of Birth Control Pill

Posted on | September 18, 2014 | No Comments

Context: Patents on medicines block generic competitors from entering the market, and allow patent holders to charge high prices as long as they maintain a sales monopoly. High prices can limit people and governments’ ability to afford the medicines they need.

Companies often try to engage in patent “evergreening”—this means that after applying for an initial patent on a new compound used to produce a drug, they also apply in subsequent years for additional patents that cover drug combinations or small changes to a medicine. Secondary patents can block generic competition for years or decades after the initial 20-year patent expires.

Many countries do not consider secondary patents on medicines to be innovative enough to deserve a patent. In South Africa, however, evergreening is common because patent applications are not examined to ensure they meet national criteria—multiple patents are granted on the same drug over time, allowing Big Pharma to maintain sales monopolies, and keep medicine costs artificially high.

Read more

WORLD HEPATITUS DAY: TAC Joins Organisations Calling for Improved Access to HepB Vaccines & Medicines

Posted on | July 28, 2014 | No Comments

On World Hepatitis Day, organisations call on SA government: protect infants with HepB jab at birth & reduce patent barriers to HepB therapies

July 28, 2014, JOHANNESBURG—On World Hepatitis Day, 26 organisations and individuals from around the world have called on the South African Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to address the public health threat of hepatitis, by implementing hepatitis B immunisation at birth, and reforming national patent laws to promote access to more affordable hepatitis therapies.

Hepatitis B is highly endemic in South Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa, where around 8% of people are chronically infected, and the rates of hepatitis B-related liver cancer are some of the highest in the world. Globally, viral hepatitis causes approximately 1.3 million deaths every year—more than either malaria or tuberculosis—with around 240 million people chronically infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV), and 140 million people with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Either of these viruses can result in liver failure and liver cancer.

“Preventing infant infection is undoubtedly the most important way to reduce the prevalence of the hepatitis B virus,” said Dr. Monique Andersson, a virologist at Stellenbosch University. “A safe, effective, and affordable hepatitis B vaccine has been available for over two decades, and remains the backbone of prevention strategies. Yet infants continue to be infected across sub- Saharan Africa because they don’t receive the immunisation early enough.” Read more

South Africa’s Statement on Access to Essential Medicines at WHA

Posted on | May 26, 2014 | No Comments

This statement was originally published on the Knowledge Ecology International website by Thiru Balasubramaniam:

On Friday, 23 May 2014, the World Health Assembly is currently discussing access to essential medicines in the context of resolution EB134.R16, tabled China in January 2014. The following statement was delivered by South Africa on behalf of the 47 members of the African region. South Africa highlighted the point that “vaccines and anti-cancer drugs remain out of reach of millions of people in both developed and developing countries.”

With respect to the concept of “essentiality” and the high cost of medicines, the WHO African region noted,

The high price of medicines, particularly in the private sector, is a key barrier to affordable essential medicines in developing countries. While affordable prices are a key determinant in improving access to medicines, we should not forget that adequate, sustainable and equitable financing of medicines is also required. The WHO essential medicines committee may consider producing a list of medicines that are essential for public health however they are at an unaffordable price. This would direct other low cost manufacturers to focus on their product portfolio.

Read more


Posted on | March 12, 2014 | No Comments


Activists demand rapid completion of intellectual property policy six years in the making; Without internationally recognised public health safeguards policy will be health disaster

2014/03/11, PRETORIA — Marching to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SECTION27 led 1,000 health activists to demand the finalisation of a National Intellectual Property (IP) Policy before the general elections, to provide South Africans better access to the drugs they need through legislative reforms.

“It’s been six years since the Department of Trade and Industry started work on the IP policy and we cannot wait any longer. DTI has to keep to its promise to complete it by April – before the elections on 7 May – so the laws can start to change. We cannot afford to keep lining the pockets of international pharmaceutical companies at the expense of South Africans who need vital drugs,” says Andrew Mosane of the Treatment Action Campaign.

Read more

keep looking »
  • About the Campaign

    fix the patent laws
    Fix the Patent Laws is a campaign of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). TAC is a non-profit organisation that seeks to ensure that every person living with HIV has access to quality, comprehensive prevention and treatment services to live a healthy life. Through this blog we will highlight how amending South Africa’s Patents Act 57 of 1978 will reduce the cost of medicines, improving the health and saving the lives of millions of South Africans.

  • Read the TAC and MSF campaign pamphlet

  • Latest tweets