Press release |

Every Day Parliament Delays Passing IP Bill, 700 More Die of AIDS in Kenya

Kenya Coalition calls on MPs to urgently pass a patient friendly Industrial Property Bill

Nairobi, 5 June 2001 — The Kenya Coalition for Access to Essential Medicines* today called on Members of Parliament to urgently pass a patient friendly Industrial Property Bill  (IP Bill 2001). The Kenya Coalition warned that for every day that parliament delays debating and passing the IP Bill, which could give access to affordable medicines for AIDS and other infectious diseases, another 700 people die in Kenya of AIDS and HIV related infections.  The call for the IP Bill to be debated as soon as possible, came as parliament resumed one week early from recess to make time to discuss this and other bills.

“My husband and my baby died of AIDS. I am a person living with AIDS and every day, 700 people like me die from the disease because they do not have access to affordable medicines, even though they exist.” said Patricia Asero, AIDS outreach worker for Medecins Sans Frontieres in Kibera slums, “In just five days, 50,000 people in Kenya have signed a petition in support of an IP Bill which puts life before profit. This shows the MPs have the full support of the public to ensure long term access to affordable medicines in Kenya by including life-saving WTO/TRIPS safeguards such as parallel importing and compulsory licensing.” Patricia concluded, on behalf of the Kenya Coalition for Access to Essential Medicines.

To support access to affordable medicines through the IP Bill, the Kenya Coalition has launched a nationwide signature-collecting petition. The Kenya Coalition is concerned that the multi-nationals could put pressure on the Kenyan government to drop or amend vital, legal and internationally recognized safeguards, which could ensure the right of access to affordable medicines for millions of people suffering from AIDS and other diseases. Pharmaceutical multinationals are among the most profitable industries in the world. Africa makes up just over 1% of the global pharmaceutical market, and Kenya but a fraction of that.

Despite high profile publicity around multi-national discount offers, these offers are no substitution for a legal system, which will ensure long-term sustainable access to affordable medicines. The company offers are only for AIDS drugs and have only been offered under heavy public pressure. These do not cover medicines for other life-threatening diseases like TB, and malaria. Kenya cannot afford to rely on the charity of profit making companies for its future.

The published “Industrial Property Bill” 2001 is the result of a year of consultation and of work by government departments, and by health and intellectual property experts. Once passed, the bill will make Kenya TRIPS/WTO compliant.  The published bill protects intellectual property rights (increasing patent protection to 20 years), but also gives the government the means to access cheaper medicines though internationally recognized ‘safeguard’ mechanisms such as parallel importing (the right to shop around the world for the cheapest offer of patented drugs); and compulsory licenses (issuing licenses for the production or importation of cheaper generic medicines).  

One of the key safe-guards, recommended by WTO and WHO, which is NOT currently in the bill is the “Bolar provision”. This allows local generic manufacturers to do the appropriate trials, registration process etc, to be ready to roll off the production line as soon as the patent expires.

This is the first time since the high profile South African court case, that a country in Africa tries to ensure legally access to affordable medicines through generic competition. Amendments to improve the Industrial Property Bill must put life before profit.  Kenya must take full advantage of the internationally recognized legal safeguards provided by TRIPS/WTO.

In Kenya, it is estimated that around 2.3 million adults are living with HIV, and that around 700 people die per day of HIV related infections. What has become a chronic disease in Europe and America, where patients are treated, reducing mortality by 80%, remains a deadly plague in Africa. One of the key factors why people continue to die of AIDS is that anti-retrovirals (ARVs) and other essential medicines are too expensive. Although generic companies such as India’s CIPLA have been selling triple combination of ARVs to governments (to Cameroon and Nigeria), at 350$US** per patient per year. In May, in Kenya, the cheapest price negotiated by certain hospitals came to US$ 1,330- 1,620 *** per patient per year, but most hospitals and individuals continue to pay much more. Only 1-2,000 people are estimated to be undergoing treatment.

* The Kenya Coalition on Access to Essential Medicines includes: Action Aid, The Association of People living with AIDS in Kenya (TAPWAK); Health Action International (HAI Africa); Network for people living with HIV/AIDS (NEPHAK); Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK); Society for Woman and AIDS in Kenya (SWAK); Nyumbani; International Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya (FIDA); CARE International; Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF); DACASA; Pharmaciens Sans Frontieres (PSF); Kenya Medical Association (KMA); Consumer Information Network; Campaigners for AIDS Free Society.
**  $350 US per year is KSH 27,300 per patient per year, which works out at about KSH 2,275 per month per patient.
***    $1,300- 1,700 per year is KSH 103,704 – 126,400 per patient per year, or KSH 8,524- 10,389 per month per patient.