Patents and access to Lymphoma medicines

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) is classified as an AIDS defining cancer, as it is highly prevalent among cancer patients living with HIV. This is because HIV suppresses the immune system which makes people living with HIV (PLWHIV) much more susceptible to viruses which cause cancer, such as the Epstein–Barr virus which can cause NHL. Preliminary results from a study focusing on the “Cost of Cancer” – commissioned by the Cancer Alliance – indicate an exponential increase in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in particular in the next ten years. This will place an additional burden on a health care system that is already crippled. Timeous and correct diagnosis is crucial.

Rituximab is used in the treatment of CD20 positive B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This medicine is already available in the public sector. The availability of a biosimilar product is a welcome addition as it will improve competition. South Africa needs to urgently “Fix the Patent Laws” to make it possible to exclude new formulations and uses of existing medicines from patentability as is the case in other territories. The current subcutaneous patent, registered for Roche, will only expire in 2030.

Read the fact sheet here.

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