Facts and Figures on Patenting and Access in Africa
Given the emphasis that activists and some media and health authorities have placed on patents, we find the results startling (see attached tables). These tables show that few patents exist in sub-Saharan Africa in any of the six categories of products accounting for nearly 50% of mortalities due to communicable diseases.
- For two of the biggest killers in Africa - malaria and tuberculosis - patents are virtually non existent. Specifically, only one drug for malaria (Malarone) appears to be patented in most countries in Africa -- a drug that has been offered through a donation program. The remainder (12/13, or 92%) do not appear to be under patent in any country. As for TB, it appears that 9/11 (82%) are not under patent in any country, and at any rate, patenting levels are under 1%$ (3/572). Thus, in more than fifty nations in Africa, nearly all known drugs available to treat these two diseases are not subject to any patents.
- Opportunistic infections associated with HIV/AIDS are a source of immense suffering and hardship in Africa - but patenting levels are miniscule. Our findings reveal that patents exist in two countries (South Africa and Kenya) for less than a third of the twenty-six products that are available to treat these disorders. In the other 50 countries surveyed, patents existed that were relevant to two of the twenty-six products in about a third of the countries. Thus, in more than two thirds of the countries of Africa, no patents exist in relation to any of the drugs to treat opportunisitic infections.
- The last category includes the newest and most innovative drugs our companies have developed - drugs used in antiretroviral therapies designed to stop the progression of HIV infection. Three of these drugs are ordinarily combined to treat those infected with HIV (the so-called triple-therapy cocktail). In roughly half of the 52 African countries surveyed, no patents exist related to any of these drugs. In the other half of the countries patents cover a minority of the products in each of the three categories from which triple-therapy cocktails are drawn. Thus even in those African countries where our companies have obtained some patents, more than a dozen different combinations of drug cocktails for treatment of HIV infection are not subject to patents. According to the latest available data - based on company reporting - the patenting level for 16 ARV drugs in 52 Sub Saharan African countries does not exceed 18% (150/832). For these drugs, Africa is a patent desert.
These statistics demonstrate the reality of the African patent situation, which stands in stark contrast to the statements made by a number of organizations advocating drastic reinterpretations of the TRIPS Agreement. They demonstrate what many have long believed; patents are simply not an obstacle to access in almost every sub-Saharan African nation.
IP and Healthcare
CPT Page on Patent Coverage of ARVs in Africa.