In What Cases Are Drug Patents Legitimate?
Defiant Nigeria to Import Cheap Copies of HIV Drugs
Are drugs private property? What about the formula for a drug? Is the right to produce a drug, private property? If not, why not? If so, what if people die as a result?
Here are a few quotes from a recent article in the London Guardian, reporting on Nigeria's government's decisions on this topic.
by Chris McGrealNigeria has defied pressure from multinational pharmaceutical companies by becoming the first African country to import cheap copies of patented AIDS drugs in a move watched closely by other states on the continent worst hit by the disease. The groundbreaking decision will infuriate big drug firms.
Nigeria says it will shortly begin distributing tons of drugs produced by an Indian company, Cipla, at a fraction of the price charged by the major drug firms. The imports will cut the cost of anti-retrovirals from about 4,000 pounds a year for patented medicines to 225 pounds for those Nigerians who benefit from the programme at hospitals in several cities.
Nigeria's announcement coincides with an international conference in west Africa on AIDS where several governments have demanded access to affordable anti-HIV drugs.
AIDS is now the primary killer in sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 28,000,000 people living with HIV in the region, fewer than 100,000 have access to anti-retroviral triple therapy relied on in the west. Many of the others are expected to die within the decade. This year, an estimated 2,300,000 people succumbed to AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
The president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, said access to medicines was "the domain of the north, and the sick and ailing are left to the south".
Nigeria's move follows the court victory by South Africa earlier this year which established the right of governments to seek cheaper drugs to deal with health emergencies such as AIDS. in spite of the opposition of pharmaceutical firms.
Kenya and Ghana in particular will be carefully watching the reaction by the drug companies and western governments to Nigeria's move. Both governments have been discussing prices with generic drug producers.
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