South African Ambassador Issues Statement Defending South Africa in Patent Lawsuit
Responding to the pledges of Doctors Without Borders, ACT UP and Oxfam to support the South African government in the trial over the country's 1997 Medicines and Related Substances Act, South African Ambassador to the United States Sheila Sisulu issued a statement declaring that the South African government is prepared to use "all available channels," including the court system, to protect its efforts to provide access to cheaper AIDS drugs. Sisulu explained that the act -- which allows the country to access cheaper drugs through parallel importing and compulsory licensing -- is a "critical instrument" in correcting South Africa's "highly inequitable health care system," as it grants health services to a greater section of the population. She said that South Africa plans to execute this task "in a manner which is consistent with our international commitments that fully protect intellectual property rights." Sisulu concluded, "Our objectives in terms of the Medicines Act are really no different from what is already possible in many developed countries, including the United States, Canada and Europe" (South African Embassy release, 3/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.