Kenyan Parliament To Debate Changes In Patent Law, Could Decrease Generic Drug Access, Advocates, Officials Say

Kenya’s Parliament on Thursday is scheduled to debate proposed amendments to its patent law, some of which are opposed by some HIV/AIDS advocates because they say the amendments could decrease access to antiretroviral drugs, Reuters South Africa reports (Kanina, Reuters South Africa, 7/26). 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, Xinhua/People’s Daily reports (Xinhua/People’s Daily, 7/25). 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 (Reuters South Africa, 7/26). According to Kenya’s Standard, 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 (Chesos [1], Standard, 7/25). 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/19/05). 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/20).

“The ministry will fight [the amendments],” Nyikal said to journalists at a five-day meeting on female genital cutting in Kenya’s capital Nairobi (Mwai/Oreyo, Standard, 7/26). 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, the Kenya Times reports. “If these amendments are passed, there will be an enormous increase in the cost of drugs for HIV/AIDS and other serious diseases,” UCCA representative and pharmacist Ignatius Kibe said. Vice President Moody Awori told the protestors that they did not have the proper information on the amendments, adding that a separate bill will address HIV/AIDS-related issues (Kiguru, Kenya Times, 7/26). According to the Standard, 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 (Chesos [2], Standard, 7/25).

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