AFRICANGLOBE – South Africa’s Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says a planned campaign by multinational pharmaceutical companies against proposed South African patent laws is “genocide.”
“This document can sentence many South Africans to death,” he said. “That is no exaggeration. This is a plan for genocide.”
The secret document was reportedly drawn up by lobby group Public Affairs Engagement (PAE) on behalf of a number of multinational drug companies operating in South Africa, represented by the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of SA (Ipsa).
It was said to outline a plan to fight the draft legislation in a document released to the media.
According to reports, the section of the draft policy pertaining to health aimed to weaken protection for drug patents, which would drive down prices for a range of medications, including antiretrovirals and tuberculosis treatment.
It was reported that PAE’s response sought to direct the nature of public discourse around the policy through a massive public relations exercise directed from outside the country.
The PAE plan intended to send the message that the policy could threaten investment and have negative economic and social consequences.
Ipsa reportedly told the newspaper it would encourage open debate on the proposed legislation.
South Africa’s health minister accused multi-national drug companies of orchestrating a “satanic” and “genocidal” plot to rig patent laws, according to a newspaper interview published Friday.
Commenting on pharmaceutical firm’s efforts to scupper patent reforms that would cheapen medicine prices, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told a South African newspaper it was a conspiracy of “satanic magnitude”.
“I am not using strong words; I am using appropriate words. This is genocide,” Motsoaledi said. “This document can sentence many South Africans to death.”
South Africa’s current laws allow firms to renew patents indefinitely by changing small elements in a medicine’s composition.
Reforms would change that, paving the way for patents to expire and generic versions to be legally produced.
The government hopes that would make providing life-saving treatment for over six million South Africans living with AIDS much cheaper.
Motsoaledi’s comments came after documents emerged detailing a lobby group’s strategy to influence policy.
The Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa planned a campaign across Africa and Europe to pressure South Africa into strengthening the patent laws, according to the newspaper which obtained a copy of the plan.
This includes efforts to “mobilise voices inside and outside South Africa to send the message that the proposed IP (intellectual property) policy threatens continued investment and thus economic and social wellbeing,” it quoted from the nine-page document.
“This mobilisation will occur through an energetic campaign, which will feel like a political campaign.” Motsoaledi said the project put profits ahead of people.
“They want to prove to patients that the lack of access to medicine has nothing to do with IP but everything to do with the incompetence of the government,” said Motsoaledi.
“They are not hoping to influence government; they are hoping to influence society to turn against government,” he said.
Ipasa reportedly enlisted US-based lobby firm Public Affairs Engagement for its campaign.
But its head Val Beaumont denied they had contracted outside parties.
“Ipasa is considering various communication strategies and proposals to augment our ongoing policy advocacy and communications outreach concerning the draft policy,” she told reporters.
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