South Africa’s Outdated Patent Laws Are Standing in the Way of Affordable, Lifesaving Drugs

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The drug used to treat hepatitis B costs more than 10 times as much in South Africa as it does in India.

Protests in Pretoria on Sept. 27 sought to highlight the exorbitant prices of many lifesaving drugs in the country. They lay the blame on medical patent laws that allow drug companies to charge full price for medication that can be purchased for much less in other parts of the world. The hepatitis B treatment, for instance, costs about $400 in South Africa, compared to just $35 in India.

The group marched to the Department of Trade and Industry to demand that the ministry enact the Doha Declaration on Public Health that allows developing countries to license or import drugs without the permission of patent-owners.

 As a member of the World Trade Organization, South African patent law should be updated to include the declaration, but the government has been moving slowly to do so. Only this year did South Africa begin the process of reforming its 1978 patent law (pdf) to take advantage of the declaration.

Source: Quartz (link opens in a new window)