Fix The Patent Laws

Health Minister takes strong stand on cancer drug costs

Posted on | May 10, 2016 | No Comments

The Fix the Patent Laws coalition applauds the speech given by the South African Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, today as he presented the budget for his Department to Parliament. We welcome his strong stance taken on the costs of cancer drugs, specifically trastuzumab (marketed as Herceptin), around which the Fix the Patent Laws coalition has been campaigning for some time due to its total unaffordability in South Africa. We hope this speech heralds the beginning of an era of more affordable cancer drugs for South Africans and that Parliament recognises the damaging role that patents play in causing these medicines to remain out of reach.

Read the Minister’s full speech below:

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SA government takes promising stand on patents

Posted on | April 28, 2016 | No Comments

  • But public remains in the dark regarding stalled policy process

The Fix the Patent Laws (FTPL) coalition welcomes recent public comments made by Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies and Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi about patents and patent law in South Africa and in other developing countries.

Earlier this month Minister Davies delivered a landmark keynote address at the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s (WIPO) International Conference on Intellectual Property and Development in Geneva. In his speech Minister Davies dispelled a number of commonly held myths about the role of intellectual property in development. He said that “there is no unambiguous evidence that stronger IPRs (intellectual property rights) foster industrial development and countries may require different approaches and policies dependent on their level of industrial development.”

Davies confirmed: “The role of patent protection in promoting innovation has also been controversial. There are arguments that patents are unlikely to foster innovation in developing countries at early stages of industrialization. The evidence on the extent to which patent protection, which is of particular relevance in the context of industrial policies, contributes to encouraging innovation is, at best, inconclusive. Some studies contend that other factors, notably ‘first mover’ advantages, are more decisive in promoting innovation.”

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Activists demand Roche drops cost of vital breast cancer medicine

Posted on | March 31, 2016 | No Comments

THURSDAY 31st MARCH 2015, JOHANNESBURG – Today, members of the Fix the Patent Laws campaign, including Advocates for Breast Cancer, the Cancer Alliance, the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), Doctors without Borders, People Living with Cancer, SECTION27, the South African Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance, the Treatment Action Campaign, and Wings of Hope are picketing outside pharmaceutical company Roche to highlight the excessive price of a life-saving breast cancer medicine.

Women with a specific form of breast cancer, HER2 positive, require a medicine called trastuzumab (marketed in South Africa as Herceptin). Many women in South Africa who need trastuzumab cannot access it due to the high price charged by Roche. In the private sector, a 12-month course of Herceptin costs approximately R485,800, or more if higher dosing is required. Roche is able to charge such a high price as it holds multiple patents on the drug, which may block cheaper biosimilars from being sold in South Africa until 2033.

“I was diagnosed with HER2 breast cancer in 2013,” explains Tobeka Daki. “Despite it being recommended by my doctor, my medical aid declined to cover Herceptin claiming that it was too expensive. There’s no way I could afford the half a million-rand price tag. Without access to Herceptin my cancer has spread and last year I was diagnosed with bone cancer of the spine. This medicine is a last hope for patients like me. Chemo alone isn’t enough.”

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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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  • 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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