A pharmacist counts pills in a pharmacy. File image: Reuters

Johannesburg - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says a planned campaign by multinational pharmaceutical companies against proposed South African patent laws is “genocide”, The Mail&Guardian reported.

“This document can sentence many South Africans to death,” he said. “That is no exaggeration. This is a plan for genocide.”

The document was reportedly drawn up by lobby group Public Affairs Engagement (PAE) on behalf of a number of multinational drug companies operating in South Africa, represented by the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of SA (Ipsa).

It was said to outline a plan to fight the draft legislation in a document seen by the Mail&Guardian.

According to the newspaper, the section of the draft policy pertaining to health aimed to weaken protection for drug patents, which would drive down prices for a range of medications, including antiretrovirals and tuberculosis treatment.

The Mail&Guardian reported that PAE's response sought to direct the nature of public discourse around the policy through a massive public relations exercise directed from outside the country.

The PAE plan intended to send the message that the policy could threaten investment and have negative economic and social consequences.

Ipsa reportedly told the newspaper it would encourage open debate on the proposed legislation. - Sapa