Erwin appeals to US drug firms on licensing

South African Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin says he will once again meet US pharmaceutical companies next month to help resolve the impasse over compulsory licensing of pharmaceutical products to third parties.

Prior to delivering his Budget vote in the National Assembly on Monday, Erwin said the US was the only country to oppose a trade text allowing for third party licensing of pharmaceutical products.

He told MPs that the refusal “by the United States to agree to a mechanism that would allow countries to legally import medicines for public health reasons under compulsory licenses is posing severe constraints to developing countries that cannot afford the cost of expensive drugs”.

Explaining this to journalists earlier, Erwin said pharmaceutical products had to be manufactured in safe environments. In many developing countries these facilities were not available but they wanted to provide licensing to third parties—such as a country in their region—which had the capacity to do so.

The US, as the world’s leading pharmaceutical manufacturer, had accepted the principle of third party licensing. However, it had differences with other countries regarding the practical implementation, arguing that “certain products and countries should be excluded”.

South Africa—as a possible regional player—would be fighting for the acceptance of the full text.
South Africa would not “shirk its leadership responsibilities” and would argue these points vehemently at the forthcoming WTO ministerial to be held later this year in Mexico, Erwin told MPs.

Erwin said that South Africa was well advanced in manufacturing antiretroviral products “and other products” which fight meningitis, malaria “and a range of problematic diseases”. - I-Net Bridge

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