The Innovative Pharmaceutical Association South Africa An association (IPASA), a trade group of R&D-based drugmakers, says it has rejected an American plan relating to intellectual property to manipulate South Africa because it had been clearly inappropriate, reports the local newspaper Mail & Guardian.
South Africa is in the final stages of implementing a new law that would allow generic drugmakers to produce cut-price copies of patented medicines and make it harder for firms to register and roll over patents. The new law is expected to reduce medicine prices and open up a fledgling generic drug industry dominated by Aspen Pharmacare and Adcock Ingram, commented Reuters.
The association also said it never had any real intention to move ahead with the lobbying plan, due to be backed by US money, and that would have included manipulating international relations and setting up a front organization directed from Washington.
"Innovative Pharmaceutical Association South Africa can confirm that it has not engaged the consultancy PAE [Public Affairs Engagement] to lobby on intellectual property or any other matter in South Africa," said IPASA chief operating officer Val Beaumont in a statement, adding: "PAE submitted a proposal for a campaign, which was reviewed and subsequently rejected by IPASA members, and no payment or pledge has been made in any respect.”
“Satanic plot,” says Health Minister
The statement came after the Mail & Guardian published details of the plan, which Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi described as a “satanic plot,” and which non-governmental organizations lobbying for cheaper drugs characterized as a covert attempt at influencing debate, and generally highly questionable.
IPASA represents companies including Merck & Co, Sanofi, Pfizer, Roche and Novartis, and internal communication had suggested that it had approached the Washington-based PAE to reverse South Africa’s policy position on drug patents - and was keen to go ahead with it.
Responding to questions on Saturday, Ms Beaumont explained a behind-the-scenes sequence of events that involved a complicated interplay between local representatives of drug companies, but also shows that the PAE plan was never likely to be implemented by the association. “The proposal in question was initiated and submitted on a speculative basis by PAE,” Ms Beaumont told the M&G.
The South Africa-based Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) says it “is outraged over what appears to be a covert and well-funded plan from the foreign pharmaceutical industry to delay an essential law reform process in South Africa. It takes us back to the turn of the century when 39 pharmaceutical companies took President Nelson Mandela and the South African government to court to try to stop legislative reform to improve South Africa’s ability to access affordable life-saving medicines. Now, just weeks after his death, foreign pharmaceutical companies are coordinating another major attack on this right.”
The TAC’s general Secretary Vuyiseka Dubula continued: “We call for the urgent finalization and release of the Department of Trade and Industry’s long awaited Intellectual Property Policy. Any further delays are unacceptable and will have far reaching impact on the provision of public health. We will not allow foreign industry to derail this national process, especially in such a secret and underhanded way. The TAC fought before and we will fight again now to protect the Constitutional rights of all people in South Africa.”