Fix The Patent Laws

India issues its first compulsory license to protect health, South Africa continues to lag behind

Posted on | March 23, 2012 | No Comments

Early this month, India issued its first ever compulsory license, for generic manufacture and sale of Sorafenib (brand name: Nexavar). Bayer was granted a patent on Sorafenib in India in 2008. After unsuccessfully negotiating with Bayer for a voluntary license, generic pharmaceutical company Natco Pharma Ltd applied for a compulsory license in July 2011. The Indian Patent Office issued the compulsory license early this month, paving the way for generic manufacture of the medicine.

Bayer currently sells Sorafenib in India at $47 (R363) per 200 mg tablet.[1] A single 200mg tablet in South Africa is sold by Bayer at R381.00.[2] Because the drug is patent protected, no generic versions are available in the country.

Natco plans to sell Sorafenib at Rs. 8,880 per month. This amounts to approximately US$1.48 (R11.50) per tablet. Therefore South African patients will be paying 33 x more for patented Sorafenib than patients in India will pay for the generic version.

As part of our campaign to fix the patent laws, we are calling on our government to utilise compulsory licenses. The Sorafenib case in India demonstrates how compulsory licenses can be used by governments to address the often prohibitory costs of medicines under patent by issuing compulsory licenses.

It is distressing that, while South Africa faces numerous health emergencies and many medicines remain inaccessible due to cost, our government has never issued a single compulsory license for generic manufacture of medicines.


[1] Converted to rands on 22 March 2012

[2] Price sourced from medprax on 20 March 2012

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  • About the Campaign

    fix the patent laws
    Fix the Patent Laws is a campaign co-founded by SECTION27, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in 2011. Since then, the coalition has grown to include 38 other organisations fighting together to push South Africa to amend its patent laws to prioritise public health. 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.

    The members of the Fix the Patent Laws Campaign are as follows: Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Doctors Without Borders (MSF), SECTION27, the South African Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (SANCD Alliance), DiabetesSA, EpilepsySA, Marie Stopes South Africa, Stop Stock Outs Project (SSP), South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), Cape Mental Health (CMH), the South African Federation of Mental Health (SAFMH), Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorders Alliance (SABDA), as well as the following members of the Cancer Alliance and Advocates for Breast Cancer: Breast Course 4 Nurses, Breast Health Foundation, Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), Cancer Heroes, Can-Sir, CanSurvive, Care for Cancer Foundation, Childhood Cancer Foundation of South Africa (CHOC), Hospice Palliative Care Association (HPCA), Igazi Foundation, Look Good Feel Better, Love your Nuts, Lymphoedema Association of South Africa (LAOSA), Men’s Foundation, National Council Against Smoking, National Oncology Nursing Association of SA, Pancreatic Cancer Network of SA (PanCan), People Living With Cancer (PLWC), Pink Trees for Pauline, Pink Phoenix Cancer Foundation, Pocket Cancer Support, Project Flamingo, Rainbows and Smiles, Reach for Recovery, South African Oncology Social Work Forum (SAOSWF), The Pink Parasol Project, The Sunflower Fund, Vrede Foundation and Wings of Hope.

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