Top South Africa Aims To Close Drug Patent Loophole That Allows For ‘Ever-Greening’

“South Africa plans to overhaul its intellectual property laws to improve access to cheaper medicines by making it harder for pharmaceutical firms to register and roll-over patents for drugs, a senior official said on Monday,” Reuters reports. The efforts to close “a loophole known as ‘ever-greening,’ whereby drug companies slightly modify an existing drug whose patent is about to expire and then claim it is a new drug, thereby extending its patent protection and their profits,” would need to be approved by parliament, the news service notes. MacDonald Netshitenzhe, head of policy at the Department of Trade and Industry, “said South Africa, an emerging economy with pressing public health needs, wanted to improve access to medicines, including generics, and was ready should drug firms come out fighting against the proposed patent law changes,” according to Reuters. The news service notes “South Africa’s position was supported this month by a ruling from India’s top court that dismissed an application by Swiss drug maker Novartis AG to win patent protection for its Glivec cancer drug” (Roelf, 4/22).