Drug Companies File Suit Against South Africa Over Generic Drug Importation
To stop the "uncontrolled importation" of patented AIDS drugs into South Africa, the South African pharmaceutical manufacturers association has filed suit against the government, Reuters/Wall Street Journal reports. Submitted to the Pretoria High Court on behalf of drug makers like GlaxoSmithKline, the suit "bring[s] to a head" an intellectual property dispute that has been ongoing for three years. Under a law passed in 1997, the South African health minister may put aside drug patents in order to procure cheaper drugs to keep the "AIDS epidemic [from] sweeping the country." The drug industry, however, said that by allowing the health minister to "dismiss patents without any process," the law contributes to an "uncontrolled spread" of generic drugs in the developing world. The industry expressed concern that these drugs may find their way to the "high-priced markets in Europe and North America." Jo-Anne Collinge of South Africa's health ministry, said, "The government wants to legalize the parallel importation of these drugs. It has legislation in place, but this is on hold because the drug companies have opposed it and have challenged it on the grounds of intellectual-property laws." The court is scheduled to hear the case on March 5 (Reuters/Wall Street Journal, 1/15).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.