South Africa: Access to Affordable Medicines Watered Down in Presidential Health Compact


In 2018, the Department of Trade and Industry unveiled a new policy aimed at reining in the pharmaceutical industry profiteering. But the Presidential Health Compact announced in July 2019 subtly undermines this policy. Mark Heywood and Zain Rizvi explain the arguments and the consequences.

In May 2018, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) finally unveiled a new policy that would help to rein in pharmaceutical industry profiteering. The Intellectual Property (IP) Policy of the Republic of South Africa, offered a fresh vision of how to improve medicine access. Phase 1 of this policy concentrated on issues to do with IP and public health. It recognised "the dire circumstances that ensue from lack of [medicine] affordability" and endorsed a range of measures to improve access. The policy was adopted by Cabinet, and as such represents official government policy today.

The policy had been many years in the making. It was developed by an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Intellectual Property, debated extensively and arrived at via a thorough democratic process. It is in line with international law and recommendations made by the UN secretary- general's High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines.

According to the policy, its "aim is to ensure that South...

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