President Bush tours the Kigali Memorial Center in Rwanda, February 19th, 2008
President George W. Bush had a chance to reflect on his Africa policy at the Kigali Memorial Center in Rwanda – the site was built in memory of the 500,000 Tutsi who were massacred in the Rwandan Genocide over the course of 100 days – all this as the world stood by and failed to act. Mr Bush was on a grand 5 country Africa tour – from Benin, to Tanzania, to Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia. This was only his second trip ever – his first trip to Africa was in 2003.
Recently the Bush administration, together with other world governments and the UN, have come under heavy criticism for their policies towards the Genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The current administration has ineffectively pushed for sanctions, coupled with some humanitarian aid to combat Sudan’s role – and has defended its policies towards Africa by citing efforts to end Kenya’s bloody political crisis to the war on HIV/AIDS.
The Darfur issue dwarfs Bush’s accomplishments in Africa – which have somewhat been a positive island in an otherwise roller-coaster foreign policy. The administration’s accomplishments include the Millennium Challenge Corp, which provides funding to countries that adhere to democratic principles and sound economic policies; to investing $15 billion over five years to fund the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR; to investing $1.2bn for a five-year campaign to lower malaria deaths in Africa.
One thing is clear – Mr. Bush’s trip highlights how eager the people are for a more proactive US policy towards Africa as posters for Obama08 greeted the president, first in Tanzania, then all throughout his trip wherever he went.
Are intellectual property rights still considered unassailable when such disparate measures are taken to fight ongoing pandemics like AIDS, SARS or the recent advent of bird flu?
Recently Cipla, an Indian generic drug maker, announced that they will launch a generic version of the bird flu drug, Oseltamivir in the domestic market this month. The move to launch the product follows the company’s abortive attempt to get a license for the product from Roche and Gilead, which have patents on the drug in the regulated market. Cipla is best-known for manufacturing cheap anti-AIDS drugs.
Cipla has managed to circumvent patents restrictions on these drugs due to a previous patent law in India that protected manufacturing processes, but not products — an Indian company was free to reverse engineer any drug so long as it used an unpatented process.
Case & Point:
There has been a visible conflict globally over AIDS drugs in Africa and Intellectual property rights enforced by big Pharma. Due to the higher drug costs for public health programs across Africa, many states are dealing with acute public health crises. This is where generic drug manufacturers like Cipla have played a role to bridge the gap.
With Cipla drugs, the cost of treating an AIDS patient has been reduced from $12,000 to $300 per year. The customary treatment of AIDS consists of a cocktail of three drugs. Cipla produced an all-in-one pill called Lamivudine which contains all three substances, something difficult elsewhere because the three patents are held by different companies.
The drug is widely used all across Africa and the third world.
Are we killing off an effective engine for quick and easy replication of drugs that would enable us to control recent global outbreaks such as SARS and birdflu? There are epidemics such as the west nile virus, AIDS and Polio that still need to be eradicated. These generic companies have invested a large number of resources in understanding local markets and have built complex supply chains around them. They have also invested millions in third world research centers employing thousands of bright minds. Will these valuable resources be lost forever?
Link : Patent regime? Not the end of the road
Volkswagen South Africa, has teamed up with educators to create a “trivial pursuit”like game to teach children about HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and pregnancy. The pilot project launched in the Eastern Cape industrial town of Uitenhage, the company’s headquarters, has 5 schools enrolled. The children taking part are aged between 11 and 13.
South Africa has the world’s highest HIV/AIDS caseload with more than five million people estimated to carry the virus — one in nine of its 45 million people.
Reuters AlertNet – Volkswagen uses game to fight AIDS in South Africa