More than 1 000 members of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), under the banner of Fix the Patent Laws Coalition, marched to the Department of Trade and Industry in Pretoria in support of government’s efforts to fix patent laws and ensure everyone has access to the medicines they need.
The coalition comprises 36 patient groups and civil society organisations representing those with most major diseases.
TAC national chairperson Sibongile Tshabalala said they were marching in solidarity with all the people who cannot access the medicine they need to save their lives or ease their suffering.
“We have lost comrades due to high medicine prices driven by unwarranted patent monopolies,” said Tshabalala.
She said the march was almost a year after the tragic death of prominent activist Tobeka Daki, a mother of two who had breast cancer and was unable to get the medicine she needed, Trastuzumab, due to its price tag of almost R500 000 a year as a result of a protected patent monopoly held by its maker, Roche.
“In South Africa, if you are poor you will die because you cannot afford medication.”
The coalition handed over a submission supporting the draft Intellectual Property Policy and a report on the dire inaccessibility of many cancer medicines due to patent barriers.
Claire Waterhouse, Access Campaign advocacy officer for Doctors Without Borders SA, said: “This process has been ongoing since at least 2009. We are encouraged a final policy and actual changes to the law finally seem to be imminent.”