Pharma MNCs Jettison Lobbyist’s Plan: A Welcoming Development?

In my just previous blog post titled, “Big Pharma’s Satanic Plot is Genocide”: South Africa Roars, I quoted a recent interview of the Health Minister of South Africa (SA) Mr. Aaron Motsoaledi on the above plan.

As reported in the interview and also indicated in an article in my blog, the Trade and Industry Department of SA, on September 4, 2013, published a long-awaited draft national policy on Intellectual Property (IP) in the Government Gazette.

Flabbergasted by the content of the draft policy, as the article indicates, pharma MNCs having operations in South Africa, almost immediately, started working on a plan through their trade association to surreptitiously change the direction of the above draft policy, radically. Instead of optimal protection for drug patents, the lobbyist reportedly planned to seek much stronger protection. 

Hatching a plan:

The report highlights, Virginia-based US lobbying firm ‘Public Affairs Engagement (PAE)’ accordingly prepared a blueprint titled, “Campaign to Prevent Damage to Innovation from the Proposed National IP Policy in South Africa” for the local trade body ‘Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa (IPASA)’. The PAE plan reportedly highlighted that, “South Africa is now Ground Zero for the debate on the value of strong IP protection. If the battle is lost here, the effects will resonate.” 

The document, according to the above report, was circulated to IPASA member companies on January 10, 2014, proposing the work to be conducted on the campaign from January 13 to February 15, the details of which I had penned in my previous blog post.

Fortunately, the grand strategy was leaked out and “South African Mail & Guardian Newspaper” published details of the game plan, which was consequently condemned with strong words by the health activists, across the world.

Pharma MNCs jettison lobbyist’s strategy:

It has now been reportedly confirmed that PAE did submit a proposal, against South African Government’s proposed draft patent policy, to IPASA. However, following a global furore on this development, as reported on January 20, 2014, the pharma MNCs operating in South Africa have since rejected the planned campaign and no payment or pledge has been made to the US based lobbyist. South Africa’s Health Minister had earlier warned that the said campaign would lead to “genocide.” 

Conclusion:

It is good to know that the local trade association of South Africa, as the external pressure started snowballing, has now articulated that, “It supports the broad objectives of the draft national IP policy…A number of the health-related recommendations outlined in the draft policy, including mechanisms for compulsory and voluntary licensing and parallel importation are already possible through existing legislation”.

Be that as it may, isn’t the decision of pharma MNCs to jettisoning the grand plan proposed by the lobby group against South African Intellectual Property (IP) related draft policy a pragmatic and welcoming one?

By: Tapan J. Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion

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