Mapping Pathways is a multi-national project to develop and nurture a research-driven, community-led global understanding of the emerging evidence base around the adoption of antiretroviral-based prevention strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The evidence base is more than results from clinical trials - it must include stakeholder and community perspectives as well.

21 November 2011

Activists Urge a Change in Patent Laws in South Africa

via PlusNews Global

Ten years ago, the Doha Declaration allowed countries to circumvent patent rights to access life-saving medicines, particularly those used to treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. However, the South African government has failed to take advantage of these provisions, and increasingly important TB medication and second- and third-line antiretrovirals (ARVs) remain out of reach, activists warn.

"Pre-Doha, treating [HIV] without generics... meant HIV was a death sentence," said Gilles van Cutsem, medical coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

In South Africa, with the world's highest HIV infection rate, the availability of generic first-line ARVs meant a drop from an annual cost of more than US$10,000 per patient to $60. Now, with more than one million people on treatment, the country will need to put more HIV-positive people on second- and third-line regimens.

Right to health

The Doha Declaration, or the Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement (Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), was signed by members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in response to concerns that patent protection granted by the TRIPS Agreement would undermine the ability of countries to protect their right to health and access to medicines.

The 1995 TRIPS Agreement made all WTO members beholden to a pharmaceutical patent period of 20 years, during which time no generic could be produced. Before TRIPS, countries such as Brazil and India did not respect patent periods at all, and many other nations observed shorter time-spans (16 years in South Africa).

With the 2001 Doha Declaration, provisions within the TRIPS agreement to protect public health were reaffirmed, as were the rights of member countries to "use, to the full, the provisions in the TRIPS Agreement, which provide flexibility for this purpose".

This included the granting of compulsory licences, which allow a government to formulate or import generic versions of medicines essential to public health but still under the 20-year patent period.

To take advantage of public health flexibilities such as compulsory licensing, however, it must be enacted into national legislation. Unfortunately, few countries, including South Africa, have taken advantage of their rights.

Read the rest.

[Content that is linked from other sources is for informational purposes and should not construe a Mapping Pathways position.]

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