Fix the Patent Laws coalition calls for transparency on medicine prices. Supplied
Policymakers from across the world were gathered this week at Emperors Palace at a forum hosted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the South African government to consider what is a fair price for medicine.

Civil society organisations and activists, local and international, have organised a side event at the venue.

It is to discuss the emerging issues in medicine pricing as well as strategies to ensure that people are not denied their right to health due to the ever-increasing cost of medicines.

One of the focus areas is the excessive price of cancer medicines in South Africa, with a specific focus on lenalidomide, a drug used for the treatment of myeloma.

In South Africa, Emerican biopharmaceutical company Celgene holds 32 secondary patents on lenalidomide that might block more affordable generics coming onto market until 2028.

It costs around R828000 for a year’s treatment course in the private sector. It is not available in the public sector.

It is excluded from prescribed minimum benefits of private medical schemes because of the cost.

In India a year’s course of lenalidomide costs R28 476.

The issue of excessive medicine prices is global, inextricably linked to a lack of pro-patient medical innovation and affects all diseases, all technologies, and all countries, especially low- and middle-income countries.

A hundred million people across the world are being pushed into poverty each year because of health-care expenses.

High prices cause avoidable human suffering, inequality and poverty.

Cancer survivors and activists from South Africa and throughout the world will join the discussion to demand more affordable generic lenalidomide - and more affordable medicines more broadly.

CAPE TIMES