India's IP policies suit South Africa just fine, official says, wants New Delhi to hold the line

South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi wants India to hang tough on intellectual property (IP) challenges for pharmaceuticals because the country's role as a major supplier of affordable medicines needs to be lauded, not scolded.

South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi

Motsoaledi, speaking to online publication, said he was "scared and worried" that efforts to haul India up for denying or overturning drugs patented elsewhere would be a step in the wrong direction if successful.

India is under pressure from a host of countries on IP disputes related to pharmaceuticals.

Of particular concern is the use of Section 3(d) of the Indian Patent Act (1970), which has been used by the Indian Patent Office to deny patents on U.S.-based Gilead Sciences' ($GILD) hepatitis C drug Sovaldi and cancer drug Glivec/Gleevec from Swiss-based Novartis ($NVS), among others.

But as noted, for a country like South Africa, the advent of low-cost HIV/AIDS drugs from India led by Yusuf Hamied, then chairman of generic drug maker Cipla Pharmaceuticals, was instrumental in stemming a full-blown public health crisis as the original medicine cocktail was out of reach for most patients in the country.

And in fact South Africa has plans for an IP law based on the Indian Patent Act, according to, with Motsoaledi elaborating on the urgency because there is talk that India might water down its policies.

"I have heard a rumor that they [India] want to reverse their [IP] policies," he told "We are very scared and worried [about the developments in India]. Why are they reversing these policies? We have been following in their footsteps, to be more like India, but they are changing now."

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