S AFRICA: Make Medicine Available for the Poor, Bishops Urge State

PRETORIA JULY 10, 2015(CISA) – Southern Africa Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) through the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) has appealed to the government to ensure that the poor can access medicine in the country.

The bishops said that some effective drugs for cancer and TB are priced beyond the reach of the government hospitals and poorer patients as the poor people in urban and rural areas are increasingly bearing the burden of cancer.

“Various cancer drugs are patented and priced out of reach, including Trastuzumab for HER2- positive breast cancer, Bortezomib used to treat multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma and Sorafenib, an effective medication for kidney cancer,” Bishop Abel Gabuza, chairman of the CJPC said in a statement sent to CISA July 8.

The bishops said that the country needed an innovative approach that effectively balances the protection of the poor and the ability of pharmaceutical companies to recover costs and make reasonable profit off the medical products they make.

The prelates added that the intellectual property protection, as it currently prevails in South Africa had failed to balance achievement of protection of the poor and profit making.

“It makes new and more effective medicine financially unaffordable for the health department and therefore unavailable to the millions of poor people in South Africa,” noted the bishops.

The bishops added that patent laws in South Africa “had severely diminished the financial capacity of the health department to purchase new and more effective drugs for the public health care.”

The bishops also called on the Department of Trade and Industry to save the lives of cancer patients by urgently finalising the National Policy on Intellectual Property for approval by Cabinet.

“It is regrettable that the process of finalizing the patent reforms seems to be hijacked by the narrow interests of multinational pharmaceutical companies. We strongly appeal to the Minister of Trade and Industry to take the bold stance of prioritizing the lives of our people over the profit making interests of powerful pharmaceutical companies,” concluded the bishops.

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