AIDS Activists stage protest against Big Pharma at the Economist’s Pharma Summit 2014

The recently concluded Economist Events’ 20th Annual Pharma Summit held in London was witness to picketing and protests by AIDS activists demanding an end to Big Pharma’s interference in South African Patent law reforms. The theme of this year’s summit was ‘Reinventing Business Models and Markets’, which observed the challenges the pharmaceutical industry faced in the current climate and the future of life science innovation. Expectedly, the event was high profile and attended by Companies like MSD, Pfizer, Sanofi Aventis and AstraZeneca.

The present laws in South Africa have made prices of life-saving drugs prohibitively high. The draft South African IP Policy was unveiled in September 2013, and was met unfavourably by Big Pharma since the implementation would have undermined their profits. Documents have surfaced to evidence Big Pharma’s direct involvement in subverting the patent reform process. The protests were coordinated with Treatment Action Campaign and MSF action in South Africa. The Campaign lauded the Indian and Brazilian model which has allowed increased access to drugs at affordable pricesOn this note, our readers may be interested to know that there exists a dedicated campaign run by MSF and the Treatment Action Campaign namely the ‘Fix the Patent Laws’ campaign. 

This Press Release reveals that companies were questioned by pro-access to health care organisations inside the Summit also. Rohit Malpani, Director of policy and analysis for Medecins Sans Frontieres Access Campaign reportedly told the panel that South Africans paid the highest prices and that “the medicines don’t reach our patients”, calling the healthcare system “ a broken business model”.


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