Kenyan Activists ‘Step Up’ Lobbying Efforts in Support of Drug Importation Bill
Kenyan AIDS activists have increased their lobbying activities on behalf of the proposed Industrial Property Bill that would allow for the importation of cheaper generic medicines, Reuters reports. The Kenyan Coalition for Access to Essential Medicines announced on Monday that it was spearheading a nationwide "countdown campaign" that will include a petition, prayer and newspaper obituaries for the approximately 700 Kenyans who die of AIDS-related complications daily. The bill, set to be debated next month in Parliament, is "fiercely opposed" by pharmaceutical companies, who have conducted their own "behind the scenes" lobbying efforts. The companies have taken a less noticeable, "less confrontational" approach in opposing the Kenyan bill after they were "badly bruised" in the fight over a similar South African law last month and out of "fear of creating a snowball effect" across the developing world, where 25.3 million people are infected with HIV. GlaxoSmithKline, the world's largest manufacturer of AIDS drugs, last week announced plans to further "slash" AIDS drug prices in Kenya. Critics contend, however, that the proposed price reductions "did not go far enough" because drug prices remain "well beyond the scope" of the average citizen, who earns less than $1 a day. "This IP bill could bring hope and longer and more productive lives to millions of Kenyans who are suffering or have family and friends dying of AIDS," Eva Ombaka of Health Action International, a not-for-profit global health network, said. Kenya has 2.2 million AIDS patients, with about 1,000 able to afford drug treatment (Reuters, 5/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.