NAIROBI, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- Health advocates from the Sub-Saharan African region on Tuesday urged governments to reform the patent system to boost access to essential medicines amid rising disease burden.
The campaigners said in a statement issued in Nairobi that an overhaul of a Pan African patent system is key to facilitate access to cheaper and efficacious medicine.
"To combat growing epidemics such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, diabetes and cancer, the rules for granting patents must be changed in order to facilitate access to more affordable generics," said Lotti Rutter, a senior policy officer at Health GAP, an international Aids advocacy network.
According to Rutter, a reformed patent system will enable African countries to have autonomy in the manufacture, licensing and distribution of life-saving drugs and minimize the influence of multinational pharmaceutical giants.
The health advocate said that comprehensive reforms in the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) is urgent in order to promote fairness and transparency in the granting of patents for medicine.
Rutter decried the high disease burden in the Sub-Saharan African region, adding that a fair pricing system for essential medicine is key to prevent deaths.
"The price of medicine in these countries determines whether the government will be able to provide treatment for these diseases to its people or not. When medicines are unaffordable, people pay with their lives," said Rutter.
Policymakers from member states of the pan African intellectual property organization are meeting in Liberia this week to discuss institutional and legislative reforms required to promote access to generic medicine.
Allan Maleche, executive director of Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV & AIDS (KELIN) said the meeting should chart a new beginning in the realignment of Africa's drug patent regime to ensure it is responsive to the needs of the low-income population bearing the brunt of infectious diseases.