Kenyan Parliament Rejects Changes in Patent Law That Could Decrease Generic Drug Access
Kenya's Parliament on Thursday rejected proposed amendments to its patent law, some of which are opposed by several HIV/AIDS advocates because they say the amendments could decrease access to antiretroviral drugs, Kenya's Nation reports (Opondo/Otieno, Nation, 7/28). The amendments to the Industrial Property Act would require the government to buy drugs from the domestic market unless they can be found for less than half the domestic price in a neighboring country or on the global market. James Nyiaki, the Ministry of Health's director of medical services, said the ministry opposes the amendments, which also would mandate that the government seek permission from patent holders before purchasing generic drugs. Some legal experts said the amendments in "special circumstances" could jeopardize Kenya's ability to produce drugs under the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. The TRIPS agreement allows developing countries to issue compulsory licenses to import generic drugs for diseases such as HIV/AIDS if a country confirms that it cannot manufacture them domestically. In addition, governments can approve the domestic production of generic versions of patented drugs during emergency public health situations if they fail to reach an agreement with the patent holder, according to the agreement. Members of the group United Civil Society Coalition Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other advocacy groups on Tuesday outside the Parliament buildings in Nairobi protested the proposed amendments. Some advocacy groups questioned why the amendments were brought before Parliament after they were not recommended by a health ministry task force chaired by Joshua Ngelu of the National AIDS Control Council (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/27). "The government has taken note of the concerns raised by the public over the proposed amendments," Martha Karua, Kenyan justice and constitutional affairs minister, told Parliament, adding that the amendments neither benefit the government nor the public. The decision came after the country's health ministry wrote a letter to the attorney general demanding that the proposed amendments be removed, Nation reports (Nation, 7/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.