UKZN academics have been making important contributions to policy debates in South Africa and in Africa.
On the first issue, the South African Cabinet in May this year approved the Intellectual Property Policy Phase 1, which to date is the most far-reaching attempt to transform the patent legislation as it affects public health by introducing various reforms to remove patent barriers to enable access to more affordable medicines.
In the final version, all the substantive proposals submitted by many activists, academics, experts and NGOs which have been advocating for patent law reform over the years, have been incorporated into the policy.
Fundamentally, the introduction of substantive examination of patents will reduce the grant of undeserving patents which extend monopolies on medicines, making their prices unaffordable to most citizens, both in the public and private sector.
In August last year, the Department of Trade and Industry published a draft Intellectual Property Policy Phase 1 for public comment.
In their submission to the Department in October, UKZN academics were among those who proposed several access-friendly measures for policy and law reform.
The submission was co-authored by UKZN School of Law Professor, Yousuf Vawda, and Honorary Research Fellow, Professor Brook Baker.
Among UKZN academics who co-signed the submission were Professor David McQuoid-Mason, Mr Andy Gray, Ms Lindiwe Maqutu, Ms Sheetal Soni, Ms Clydenia Stevens, Mr Maropeng Mpya and Ms Dev Bellengere.
The academics will also participate in follow-up processes, such as contributing to the drafting of the necessary legislation to be tabled in Parliament.
On another issue, Vawda has been working with the African Union Task Team on drafting a treaty to establish the African Medicines Agency which is intended to be a continental medicines regulatory institution to ensure, among other things, that proper regulation keeps substandard and fake medicines off Africa’s streets. It will also provide support to countries without regulatory capacity, provide scientific opinions on various health-related matters, pool resources and expertise, and develop capacity to respond expeditiously to emergencies that disproportionately affect African countries, such as the Ebola disease.
Vawda attended a consultation of African Ministers of Health held on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly in Geneva in May this year which approved the draft treaty. This was the culmination of a more than two-year process, during which there was widespread consultation on the draft involving all African Union member states, and which included three regional meetings in Addis Ababa, Tunis and Johannesburg. The document which has been approved by the ministers of health, and will now go through various internal AU processes and is expected to be tabled for adoption by the African Union Heads of State at the Summit to be held in January 2019. The adoption of this treaty for the establishment of the African Medicines Agency is one of the measures being pursued by the African Union to facilitate safe, efficacious and good quality medicines, and to thereby enhance universal healthcare for all Africans.