Fix The Patent Laws

Problematic patent laws block access to critical breast cancer medicine

Posted on | February 3, 2016 | No Comments

3 February 2016 – Leading up to World Cancer Day (4 February 2016), the Fix the Patent Laws coalition released a short video highlighting how shortcomings in South Africa’s patent laws contribute to barriers to access for critical breast cancer medicine trastuzumab. The Fix the Patent Laws coalition is a coalition of 18 patient groups, including the Cancer Alliance, and Alliance members: the Cancer Association of Southern Africa and People Living with Cancer.

Watch the video here.

This briefing document provides background on trastuzumab and patent-related barriers to access.

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FTPL support ratification of December 6 Decision but reiterate need for urgent reform of national laws

Posted on | December 7, 2015 | No Comments

On 23 November 2015, the Fix the Patent Laws coalition sent a letter to Members of Parliament considering the ratification of the December 6 Decision on Doha on TRIPS. In the letter the coalition noted that they supported the ratification of the December 6 Decision by South Africa – but noted that

“While the FTPL coalition supports the ratification of the December 6 Decision, we stress that its ratification and formal adoption by WTO member countries is not a pre-requisite for the full adoption of TRIPS safeguards to protect health in South Africa… [further] we re-iterate that this ratification alone will not improve access to affordable medicines for people living in South Africa and that reform of the country’s intellectual property laws to fully adopt TRIPS safeguards must remain an urgent priority both for the DTI and Members of Parliament.”

No decision was taken by Members of Parliament on the ratification of the December 6 Decision as the proceedings were interrupted by striking parliamentary workers.

Minister Davies responds to the Fix the Patent Laws coalition

Posted on | November 5, 2015 | No Comments

In response to the letter sent to Minister Davies from the Fix the Patent Laws coalition, Minister Davies sent a letter to the coalition recommitting to the adoption of TRIPS safeguards to protect health but noting ongoing delays. The coalition welcomed Minister Davies confirmation that the DTI remains committed to the adoption of TRIPS safeguards to protect health, but called for an urgent end to delays to ensure people in South Africa are able to access the medicines that they need.

Stalled policy will cost lives: Patient groups appeal to Minister Davies

Posted on | October 29, 2015 | No Comments

29 October 2015

Cape Town/ Johannesburg – The Fix the Patent Laws (FTPL) Campaign, today 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 coalition released a detailed timeline revealing how broken promises by the DTI, and push back by the pharmaceutical industry have contributed to government’s delays in finalising reform of South Africa’s patent laws. [1]

“It is now more than two years since the period for public comment on the draft Intellectual Property Policy ended and the policy appears to have been shelved,” said Anele Yawa, General Secretary at the TAC. “Minister Davies has repeatedly ignored requests from the Fix the Patent Laws coalition for clarification on when the policy will be finalised and a bill to amend the Patents Act will be brought before Parliament.”  

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A Timeline of Intellectual Property Reform in South Africa 1994 – 2015

Posted on | October 29, 2015 | No Comments

See brief timeline at: FTPL timeline web infographic

April 1994:                            The Bill of Rights comes into force in South Africa outlining the new democratic government’s constitutional obligations.  The Bill of Rights states that “the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of [the right to have access to health care services].” Source:

April 1994:                            As a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), South Africa signs the international agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), agreeing to provide 20-years of patent protection on products and processes that are new, innovative and capable to industrial application. The agreement contains safeguards to allow countries to protect health over patents. Source:

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Open letter to Minister Davies calling for urgent action to adopt TRIPS safeguards into law

Posted on | October 29, 2015 | No Comments

29 October 2015

Dear Honourable Minister Davies

RE: Request for urgent update on the status of the IP Policy and introduction of a bill to fully incorporate TRIPS safeguards to protect health into the Patents Act 57 of 1978

October 2015 marks the two year anniversary of the close of the public comment period on the Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property (IP). The draft policy – released by the DTI in September 2013 – committed to reforming South Africa’s patent laws to fully adopt safeguards to protect health and access to medicines allowed under the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). To date no finalised policy has been released, despite multiple promises and commitments by the DTI to do so over the past two years. See Annex 3

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Doctors Without Borders calls for SA to override patent on key HIV medicine after widespread stock out problem

Posted on | October 29, 2015 | No Comments

This statement was originally published on 26 October 2015 at

Patients sent home without drugs while pharmaceutical company AbbVie refuses to license patent to generic companies  

Johannesburg — After six months of persistent supply problems with the key HIV medicine lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r), the international medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) urged the South African government to put the public’s health first and override pharmaceutical company AbbVie’s patent with a ‘compulsory licence,’ in order to allow generic versions of LPV/r to be used in the country.

AbbVie, which markets LPV/r as ‘Aluvia’, is the sole supplier in South Africa for a medicine which is a life-line for nearly 10% of the country’s approximately 3 million people on HIV treatment. In the majority (65%) of LPV/r stock out cases reported by patients or health care workers in South Africa since April 2015 to date, patients were sent away with no medicine, and in 35% of cases, people were sent away with insufficient supply.

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FTPL coalition members make submissions on Copyright Amendment Bill

Posted on | October 23, 2015 | No Comments

17 September 2015

The Copyright Amendment Bill 2015[1] was recently referred to parliament for review, following its approval by Cabinet. The Bill was drafted by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to reform the Copyright Act 98 of 1978[2]. The Copyright Act governs the protection of copyright which – like patents – is a form of intellectual property.

The amendment of the Copyright Act is part of an ongoing process by the DTI to reform South Africa’s laws governing intellectual property. In 2013, the DTI released a draft National Intellectual Property Policy[3] (NIPP), which according to the DTI would establish a framework for reform.

The NIPP was welcomed by the Fix the Patent Laws campaign as it committed to pro-public health reform of South Africa’s intellectual property laws.[4] The Fix the Patent Laws campaign was launched in 2011 to advocate for full adoption of the flexibilities provided under the international Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property[5] (“the TRIPS agreement”) to protect health into South Africa’s national laws.

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Fix the Patent Laws Campaign featured in Foreign Affairs

Posted on | October 23, 2015 | No Comments

On 18 October, Foreign Affairs featured a profile on the Fix the Patent Laws campaign authored by Fran Quigley. Below is an excerpt from the article:

Back in Johannesburg, Mary-Jane Matsolo is wrapping up the training. It has been a whirlwind tour through the TRIPS agreement, South Africa’s problems, and the legal models in India. “Are we still there?” she asks.

The advocates nod, but several look a bit dazed. “This is a steep learning curve for me,” Greeff admits later. “But it is good to be in a group: it is a lonely place to advocate on your own.”The group concludes its sessions by devising a plan to collect patient stories from their different disease areas, co-sign an editorial on patent law reform, and send letters to members of Parliament.

“These are exciting times, man,” Matsolo says later. “For years on these medicines issues, it’s been TAC, TAC, TAC. Now we can say, Hello, it’s not just TAC speaking.” She continues, “Look, we know that pharma is a huge well-oiled machine. That means we need to be an even bigger well-oiled machine. Our job is to show people the connections. Because once they get it, the passion, the drive, the fight, the anger’they all come out. We are in the right, and we will be a force to be reckoned with.”

The full article can be read at


Posted on | August 13, 2015 | No Comments

Johannesburg/New York, August 13, 2015: A submission to the United States Government shows South Africa is facing pressure from the pharmaceutical industry to backtrack on intellectual property (IP) law reform that aims to improve access to medicines in exchange for eligibility for ongoing inclusion in the United States’ African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Doctors Without Borders (MSF), SECTION27 and the Stop Stock Outs Project (SSP), as members of the Fix the Patent Laws coalition, are deeply concerned by such requests.

Last week, the American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa (AmCham) explicitly requested that South Africa’s eligibility to benefit from AGOA should be contingent on the country abandoning certain intellectual property law reforms. The argument is contained in a submission to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), and echoes a 2013 AmCham submission to South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on the country’s Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property (“the Draft IP Policy”).

Prominent AmCham members include some of the pharmaceutical companies behind the 2014 Pharmagate scandal, in which the U.S. and European pharmaceutical industry sought to delay South African IP reform by financing a covert U$600,000 campaign. Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said the campaign sought to restrict access to crucial drugs and called it “genocide”. At the time the Minister called on all South Africans to fight against such attempts “to the last drop of their blood”. Pharmaceutical companies implicated in Pharmagate and belonging to AmCham include Abbott Laboratories SA, AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly SA, MSD and Pfizer.

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  • 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

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