Kenyan Parliament Considers Bill to Allow Importation and Manufacture of Generic Drugs
The Industrial Properties Bill, which would allow the Kenyan government to declare AIDS a national health emergency and waive patent rights to "essential drugs," was yesterday introduced in Parliament, along with a petition signed by 50,000 Kenyans calling for its "unfettered passage," the Associated Press reports. The petition, sponsored by the Kenyan Coalition for Access to Essential Medicines, was delivered to "[k]ey" members of Parliament and is part of the group's ongoing efforts to obtain legislative support for the bill. Activists and representatives of the pharmaceutical industry have been "lobbying hard" on opposite sides to influence the bill, which would allow for the importation and manufacture of generic versions of "essential" medicines during a national health emergency. While "dropp[ing] their opposition to the bill as a whole," the drug companies have called for the inclusion of provisions to "ensure" they have the opportunity to match any prices offered by generic drug manufacturers before losing their patent rights. Activists worry that such a provision may "slow the delivery" of medications to AIDS patients. "We are going to use all of our power to get this bill passed as it is written. This bill affects everybody, not just AIDS patients. It is for everyone who needs essential drugs," Oweno Achola, chair of the parliamentary committee on education, science and technology, said.
Setting an Example
The bill would bring Kenyan law in line with World Trade Organization statutes regarding international intellectual property rights and would "comprehensively reform" the country's laws regarding business and international trade. It would make Kenya the second country to do so, behind South Africa, which faced a court battle over a similar law earlier this year. The Kenyan law "could set an example for other African nations," which must adopt WTO standards by 2006, according to the Associated Press. A vote is expected on the bill Tuesday (Tomlinson, Associated Press, 6/7).