Activists seek joint action amid protectionism row

Experts from Health Action International (HAI) Africa, a civil society organization, in conjunction with Oxfam, have warned that, a growing push by countries to enact anti-counterfeit laws could undermine access to affordable medicines in Africa.
Kenya Health  Minister  Beth Wambui Mugo during the recently concluded WHO meeting in Kigali.
Kenya Health Minister Beth Wambui Mugo during the recently concluded WHO meeting in Kigali.

Experts from Health Action International (HAI) Africa, a civil society organization, in conjunction with Oxfam, have warned that, a growing push by countries to enact anti-counterfeit laws could undermine access to affordable medicines in Africa.

According to officials from the two organisations, the anti-counterfeit legislation has resulted into consignments of generic medicines being labelled counterfeits.

“Anti-counterfeit legislations are being misused to take away countries’ rights to access more affordable generic medicines – medicines which save lives at lower costs,” Christa Cepuch, a pharmacist with HAI Africa told The New Times.

Cepuch explained that generic medicines are those produced legally with copyright from the original manufacturer but at a lower cost, in contrast to counterfeits which are produced and sold with the intent to mislead that they have a credible origin.

A statement from the two organisations adds that three individuals in Kenya have filed a constitutional petition citing that the new anti-counterfeit act threatens their access to affordable generic medicines.

When contacted, Kenya’s Minister for Health, Beth Wambui Mugo rejected these claims citing that the counterfeits are clearly different from generics and the crackdown is on counterfeits only.

“Generic medicines are approved by the World Health Organization and are very affordable. We cannot do without them, so our anti-counterfeit act is specifically for fake drugs,” Mugo assured.

Gachinga Ndirangu of Oxfam maintains that access to generics is being frustrated under the pretext of fighting counterfeits and as a result, lives of many African people are at risk.

The statement also adds that at least seventeen shipments of legitimate generic medicines (including antiretrovirals) have been seized in Europe because of similar legislation.

“Recently, Dutch Customs officials also seized a consignment of antiretrovirals destined for Nigeria, purchased by the Clinton Foundation, claiming they were counterfeits,” the concept note adds.

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