South African minister accuses drug companies of ‘satanic’ plot to commit ‘genocide’
By End the Lie
The South African health minister accused pharmaceutical companies of a “satanic” plan to commit “genocide” on Friday over disputes about the country’s plans to overhaul intellectual property laws.
The conflict between drug companies and the South African government stems from a document prepared by Washington-based lobby group Public Affairs Engagement.
The document “proposes a campaign to strengthen intellectual property rights in South Africa and delay the formulation of new laws that would favor cheaper generic drugs,” Businessweek reports.
“It’s a conspiracy of satanic magnitude,” said Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi. “This document can sentence many South Africans to death. This is a plan for genocide.”
“I am not using strong words; I am using appropriate words. This is genocide,” he said.
However, the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa, which includes heavyweight members like Merck, Sanofi, Pfizer and Novartis, said they do not support Public Affairs Engagement’s document.
“We sent the proposal to our members to determine if there was any support for the initiative, but it was decided not to run with it,” Val Beaumont, a spokesman for the group, said to Businessweek.
Beaumont said something similar to Reuters.
“No part of those proposals have been accepted. No part of that document has been implemented,” she said while confirming the authenticity of the document.
The proposal included a $600,000 publicity campaign that would mobilize opposition to a new South Africa law both within the country and around the world.
The new law would allow drug makers to produce less expensive generic versions of patented medicines and would also make it more difficult for pharmaceutical companies to register and roll over patents, according to Reuters.
Others were more reserved in their comments about the proposed drug company campaign.
Ellen ‘t Hoen, founder of the Medicines Patent Pool that has called on pharmaceutical companies to share patents for AIDS drugs, told Reuters that the planned campaign was a big mistake.
“How can industry not have learned its lessons after being burnt so badly before in South Africa?” she asked.
Around a decade ago, drug companies lost a battle with the South African government over patents for AIDS drugs and access to generic pharmaceuticals.
A representative of Doctors Without Borders stood behind Motsoaledi’s reaction.
“The minister is right to take a firm stand against pharmaceutical companies that seek to protect their profit margins at the expense of ordinary South Africans,” said Julia Hill of Doctors Without Borders, according to AFP.
If the South African laws are changed, generic versions of drugs could be legally produced, making treatment for over six million South Africans with AIDS much more affordable.
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