There is a pressing need for Africa to bolster its pharmaceuticals industry, but it also requires the right policy framework, argues the author of this article. With limited initial capacity, countries need to be prudent about which drugs are developed. Different countries have different needs, and selection must be made through dialogue between government ministries, pharmaceutical companies, and local drug regulatory authorities. Good regulation is crucial, yet could prove most challenging. Many African states have patchy regulatory systems for quality assurance and little means to ensure drugs testing follows ethical guidelines. They will need to create and enforce watertight regulations to ensure that substandard or ineffective medicines don’t flood the market. But the development of a robust pharmaceutical industry in Africa can’t, and shouldn’t be, uniform, the author argues. States are extremely varied in their scientific ability, level of manufacturing regulation, and financial capacity to invest. She proposes that some countries could first set up a system to simply manufacture drugs based on existing formulations, before progressing to research and development. Others with more advanced biotech industries, such as South Africa, will have the know-how to innovate in drug development.
Health equity in economic and trade policies
South Africa recently adopted a new Intellectual Property Policy, which seeks to align IP with the country’s national development plan. What works for the new SA policy is that it addresses the interface between IP and public health. In facilitating local production and export of pharmaceuticals in line with its industrial policy, the new policy recommends the following changes: introduction of substantive patent search and examination, introduction of patent opposition, strengthening of patentability criteria, incorporation of disclosure requirements, parallel importation, exceptions, provisions to regulate voluntary licensing, compulsory licences, use of IP and competition law. All these provisions use flexibilities provided in the TRIPS (Trade related aspects of IP Rights) Agreement to safeguard development objectives. The South African policy mentions that it must engender the ethos of the South African Constitution and also reflect the country’s broader social economic development objectives. In contrast, India’s IP policy fails to take notice of obligations under Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of the right to health in its Constitution while promoting IP rights. Instead it focuses on enhancing the protection and enforcement of IP rights, which goes beyond its international obligations (referred as ‘TRIPS-plus’) without taking into consideration their negative implications. Despite being at the forefront of international fora in defending the TRIPS flexibilities, the author observes that India ignores their use for itself at the domestic level, and recommends following the South African approach.
Headlining this quarter's HAI Africa network newsletter is a fact sheet about the recent World Trade Organization (WTO) amendment to the TRIPS agreement. WTO member states last year agreed to permanently adopt the "30 August 2003 Decision" as an amendment to TRIPS. This Amendment outlines the circumstances and procedures necessary for compulsory licensing in countries that do not have the capacity for pharmaceutical production. Access to medicines campaigners are denouncing the Amendment as an extraordinarily bad deal for poor countries, but representatives from the US, EU and pharmaceutical industry are, not surprisingly, welcoming it. This fact sheet gives an overview of the Amendment and why it is controversial. It's available on the HAI Africa web site.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is holding with the Japan Patent Office (JPO) an African ministerial conference on intellectual property (IP), in Senegal, November 3-5, in cooperation with the African Union (AU) and the Government of Senegal. The ministerial conference on ‘IP for an Emerging Africa” aims to “explore the opportunities as well as the challenges facing Africa in building a vibrant innovation system and in effectively using the IP system,” according to meeting’s provisional programme. The authors argue that the ministers should embrace a balanced and development-oriented approach to intellectual property. Such an approach ought to take into account the needs, priorities and socio-economic circumstances of African countries as well as the most recent empirical evidence on the dynamics of intellectual property and innovation on the continent.
World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) members are preparing to take the reins of the Development Agenda as it becomes clear that implementation success will depend on their actions. And their actions must not only be focused on specific projects such as patent databases but also on the broader spirit of the agenda for change at WIPO, key developing countries said. A range of stakeholders met at WIPO on 13–14 October at an ‘open-ended forum on proposed Development Agenda projects’. A number of officials said they were pleased with the secretariat’s efforts on implementation and with it holding the event. But there are many problems with that assumption: patents leave out necessary information, some technologies require material transfer in order to be used, and availability of patent information does not equate to permission to use it, she said. In order to be relevant to developing country interests, said Shashikant, WIPO should undertake programmes to help developing countries use compulsory licences as needed to improve access to technology, to document and train in the use of patent oppositions, and to study the degree to which technology transfer is happening under World Trade Organization mechanisms so that WIPO programmes can learn from and improve on problems.
This report from the consultations at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)suggests that the United States does not support a focus by the WIPO on patent flexibilities, an issue that developing countries consider to be central to their development concerns. WIPO’s work on patent flexibilities, including on exceptions and limitations to patent rights, has long been encouraged by developing countries participating in WIPO’s Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP). In recent years proposals have been submitted by the Development Agenda Group of several developing countries, the Africa Group and Brazil to deepen analysis on patent flexibilities, which they consider to be central to development concerns. A work program had been agreed on at the last session of the SCP in February 2013 after intense consultations on the following topics: (i) Exceptions and Limitations to Patent Rights; (ii) Quality of Patents, including Opposition Systems; (iii) Patents and Health; (iv) Confidentiality of Communications between Clients and their Patent Advisors; and (v) Transfer of Technology. However, not all WIPO delegations were agreeable to enhancing of WIPO’s work on patent flexibilities. In a lengthy intervention at the Assemblies on 26 September on the agenda item on the SCP, the US expressed its intention to limit WIPO’s work on patent flexibilities. Its sentiment was not shared by developing countries that intervened on the agenda item. Instead they called for more work to be undertaken on the topics of exceptions and limitations to patent rights, the relationship between patents and health, and the improvement of patent quality.
This Oxfam report timed for the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos raised that unless bold political solutions are instituted to curb the influence of wealth on politics, governments will work for the interests of the rich, while economic and political inequalities continue to rise. In the report Oxfam called for those in the WEF to not dodge taxes in their own countries or in countries where they invest and operate, by using tax havens; not use their economic wealth to seek political favours that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens; to make public all the investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners; to support progressive taxation on wealth and income; to challenge governments to use their tax revenue to provide universal healthcare, education and social protection for citizens; and to apply a living wage in all the companies they own or control.
The World Bank, a leader in the global effort to control malaria, has been accused of deception and medical malpractice by a group of public health doctors for failing to carry out its funding promises and wrongly claiming its programmes have been successful at cutting the death toll from the disease. The serious charges are levelled by Amir Attaran, a professor at the Institute of Population Health and faculty of law of Ottawa University, and colleagues from around the world. Writing in an online publication for the Lancet medical journal, they say the World Bank is unfit to lead global efforts to control the disease, which kills around 1 million people a year - most of them small children.
The World Bank failed to protect social spending during its structural adjustment operations in the 1980s and 1990s, and this led to the deterioration of basic services - including those needed for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS. And instead of focusing on HIV/AIDS, the World Bank sought improvements in the way goods and services were provided and financed through health sector reforms, such as user fees, privatisation, decentralisation and integration of services. These reforms frequently had the unintended effect of reducing access to effective health care, including services aimed at the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS. This is according to a paper Produced by ActionAid that evaluates the response to the HIV crisis by the World Bank.
The literature on world cities has had an enormous influence on urban theory and practice, with academics and policy makers attempting to understand, and often strive for, world city status. In this groundbreaking new work, David A McDonald explores Cape Town’s position in this network of global cities and critically investigates the conceptual value of the world city hypothesis. Drawing on more than a dozen years of fieldwork, McDonald provides a comprehensive overview of the city’s institutional and structural reforms, examining fiscal imbalances, political marginalization, (de)racialization, privatization and other neoliberal changes. The book concludes with thoughts on alternative development trajectories.