The Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines on a high gear again
As the Intellectual property and Access to Medicines enlightenment campaign have been brought to an end in June, a new wave of campaign for branded medicines verses generics starts again in August with the same purpose of ensuring access to medicines for all Ugandans irrespective of the bills in place.
HEPS Uganda ends its month long campaign in May on Intellectual Property bill and its impact on access to medicines and this highlighted the issues in the Intellectual Property bill and how this will impact negatively on medicines access in Uganda if it passed in its present state.This campaign started with the enlightenment of the different stake holders from the civil society dubbed as Uganda Coalition on Access to Essential Medicines (UCAEM), the parliamentarians, the health care providers, the media and stakeholders in a bigger entity called multi stake holders by identifying the loops in the bills.
The issues discussed were, the patented issues verses the generic medicines, the issues with flexibilities that is given to LDCs up to 2013 and pharmaceuticals in 2006, the word usage that confuses counterfeits, substandard, fake with generics among other issues.
“Rosette Mutambi the Executive Director of HEPS Uganda said we must be clear about the words in the bills because someone somewhere is taking advantage of the words. Words like fake drugs; counterfeit drugs substandard drugs, branded and generic drugs if not looked into in the bills with care will hamper the access to medicines in Uganda.”
She made these remarks at the opening of the campaign for the Multi Stakeholders at Hotel Triangle and this campaign was funded by OSIEA.
A series of a month long campaign that started with the UCEAM workshop in Kampala, Intellectual and Access to Medicines workshop in Mbarara, a media dialogue in Kampala and the big multi stake holders meeting in Kampala put the last nail in the education and preparation of the different stakeholders for the public hearing as the bills await mentioning in the 9th Parliament.
This Workshop brought together diverse participants from the different health entities, Human Rights bodies, civil society, policy makers and bodies that monitor issues of medicines like National Drug
The overall impact of intellectual property rights on access to medicines
We live in a country where 50% of the essential medicines are provided by people with money from their pockets and over a million people live with HIV/AIDS. Although the world has gone so far in making medicines accessible where the prices have come down, only half of the patients with HIV/AIDS get treatment.
Another issue is, in few years we have seen HIV/AIDS infections moving exponentially which is very dangerous when we speak about medicines and in particular we speak about IP because most of these medicines are funded by donors like PEPFAR’ and we have many people who are getting medicines from the same basket like mothers, prostitutes, men who are having sex with other multiple partners and the population of people living with HIV/AIDS grows yet the medicines basket remains smaller which is a time bomb for Uganda. Denis expounded.
He gave some statistical back ground on a research done by NMS on the HIV medicines and said over the last 2 years a lot more people have enrolled on ART treatment with the commitment made by PEPFAR, but the challenge now is you can have two people on treatment with only one person who is in position to get treated because the medicines are patented and are very expensive which is worrying.
About September last year, treatment guidelines changed and we now changed from Zenovuda treatment, to the second line treatment Tenofovar which are very expensive because they are still patented and as we live longer we need medicines which medicines are expensive. This requires a bigger fight from CSOs to put up a fight for public health, but the irony again is we do not have the funding since 90% of the medicines we use are donor funded. As you have seen, IPR does not necessarily tackle our public health problems the biggest challenge we have is poor standards and poor quality of medicines
As Ugandans need generic medicines that are affordable, we also need medicines of standard, not just any medicines. HEPS-Uganda with the Uganda Access to Essential Medicines (UCAEM) are now on a full gear campaign on branded verses generic medicines.
Authority among members who were in parallel entities, but are still affected by some wordings in the provisions of the very bills.