Fix The Patent Laws

TAC to argue that the public interest and the right to access to health care services must be considered in patent dispute in the Supreme Court of Appeal

Posted on | May 11, 2012 | No Comments

On 15 May 2012, the Supreme Court of Appeal will hear arguments in the case of Aventis Pharma SA and Others v Cipla Life Sciences and Others in the patent dispute over the cancer medicine Docetaxel (brand name Taxotere).  The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has been admitted to the proceedings as amicus curiae (friend of the court) and is represented by SECTION27. TAC will argue for the protection of the rights of people in need of medicines in disputes of this nature.

Docetaxel is used in the treatment of various cancers, including breast and lung cancers. The medicine has also been proven to be effective in treating AIDS-related Karposi Sarcoma.

The product patent on Docetaxel expired in 2007. The patent currently under dispute relates to a composition of unpatented products, which – when mixed – facilitate the intravenous administration of Docetaxel. This patent will expire in 2013.

During the hearing next Tuesday, the validity of the patent will be argued. The court will play a crucial role in assessing the validity of the patent as it is likely the first time the patent will undergo substantive review. This is because, in South Africa, patents are granted without examination – which means that patents may be granted without full examination.  This has adverse implications for access to affordable medicines.

TAC will be arguing that, in adjudicating patent disputes, the court has a constitutional obligation to take the rights of people in need of medicines into account. Furthermore, we argue that the party seeking the interim interdict (in this case Aventis) must demonstrate that an interim interdict would not limit the rights of people in need of medicines.

Through this intervention, we hope to ensure that the rights of people in need of Docetaxel are taken into consideration in this dispute.  But as importantly, if the SCA accepts TAC’s arguments, its judgment will have great implications for all future disputes concerning the infringement of patents on medicines.

On Tuesday, TAC members in the Free State will hold a demonstration outside the SCA at 9h00 to highlight the issues.


For additional information please contact:

Umunyana Rugege, SECTION27 at 011 356 4100

Catherine Tomlinson, TAC at 076 318 5632


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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.

  • Read the TAC and MSF campaign pamphlet

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