Today the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), SECTION27 and Doctors without Borders (MSF) held a public action outside an Executive Board meeting of the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association South Africa (IPASA).

There has been significant public outrage about a proposal exposed by the Mail & Guardian on 16 January 2014, outlining a R6million deceptive plot to undermine and delay South Africa’s IP Policy reform process. Through incorporating legal safeguards into the existing patent system, these moderate reforms will increase access to affordable life-saving medicines in South Africa. However, the plot explicitly set out to mislead policy-makers and the South African public in order to derail this process. Managing Director of MSD, Micheal Azrak, explicitly endorsed the plot in a leaked email.

Our three organisations strongly support the key features of the draft IP policy and urge the DTI to expediate the process in finalising this process so that the new policy can be implemented as soon as possible.

There has been extensive opportunity for IPASA to lobby the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) through more transparent and acceptable means. Early drafts of the IP policy from mid-2012 already had pharmaceutical company comments in the margins of the document. Like other interested parties including TAC, SECTION27 and MSF, IPASA submitted recommendations to the DTI during the public consultation period from September to October 2013.

On January 17 IPASA distanced itself from the plot, saying its membership rejected it. On the face of it, the plan contradicts IPASA’s stated goals of promoting a:

–       A patient-focused healthcare system with universal access to quality care;

–       Ethical conduct and practices.

This, and the fact that Roche and Novo Nordisk resigned from IPASA indicates that the plan was the work of a minority faction of multinational companies which do not have the health of South Africans and local manufacturing industry at heart – just their own profit margins.

In addition, the plan was unethical and deceptive by proposing a front organisation (Forward SA) with a South African figurehead leader to influence public opinion, despite being in fact run from the United States,, while also commissioning research work,  which would be vetted so results did not contradict its position.

Just as we must hold government accountable when it acts unethically, we must also hold industry accountable when it acts unethically and anti-democratically. TAC/SECTION27/MSF call on IPASA’s membership to:

  • Prove its ethics and professional integrity by submitting itself to an independent investigation into those responsible for the plot, including MSD’s Azrak, and the executive leadership, John Fagan (CEO of Sanofi), executives, Pierre Bosch (CEO of Alcon) and Brian Daniel (CEO of Pfizer), and for action to be taken against those found to have played a role in proposing and recommending strategies that violate accepted norms
  • Respond to a request made by TAC, SECTION27 and MSF for further information to shed light on who was involved in the plot and to what extent it had the support of IPASA or parts of its membership.
  • Assure South Africans that it is not continuing to support unethical and underhanded strategies to undermine the process of developing a new South African IP policy. 

For more information, contact:

Lotti Rutter 081 8188493

Umunyana Rugege 083 458 5677

Mark Heywood 083 634 8806

Kate Ribet 079 872 2950