Kenyan High Court: Anti-Counterfeit Act threatened access to generic medicines

Many thanks to Godfrey Kangaude, LL.M. (UFS), LL.M. (UCLA), an LL.D. candidate with the University of Pretoria and Executive Director of Nyale Institute for Sexual and Reproductive Health Governance in Malawi, for composing or editing dozens of analytical summaries of African court decisions for our forthcoming volume, Legal Grounds III: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts.   Earlier volumes in the series, published in 2005 and 2010 by the Center for Reproductive Rights, are freely available in print or electronic form.  Legal Grounds online.

Several recent African court decisions resolve legal issues that affect public health in many nations.  For instance, in Patricia Asero Ochieng and Two Others v. The Attorney General & Another [2012] (Petition No. 409 of 2009),  a High Court of Kenya (at Nairobi) asked the government to remove a fundamental ambiguity in new legislation, the Anti-Counterfeit Act, which jeopardized citizens’ constitutional right to health.

Godfrey Kangaude’s summary of the decision shows how the Act’s ambiguous definition of “counterfeit” threatened to restrict access to low-cost generic medicines for HIV AIDS .  As he concludes, “The Court found that the Act’s conflation of counterfeit and generic drugs creates a possibility for misinterpretation by officials, who might seize legitimate generic drugs, which would have a disastrous impact on persons who rely upon them, such as the petitioners. It emphasised that such ambiguity is not permissible, especially where any misinterpretation would impact on the constitutionally guaranteed rights of individuals.

“It further said that the protection of the rights of persons to health and access of medicines is more critical than the protection of intellectual property rights, so that the protection of the rights of the petitioners should take precedence. The Court buttressed its reasoning with General Comment No. 17 where the ESCR Committee [United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights] said that states parties should prevent the use of scientific progress for purposes contrary to human rights, for instance by excluding patentability where commercialisation of innovations would jeopardise enjoyment of human rights.” [2]

[1] Patricia Asero Ochieng and 2 Others v The Attorney General & Another [2012], Petition No. 409 of 2009 (High Court of Kenya at Nairobi) Decision online.
[2] Godfrey Kangaude, Case summary,  Patricia Asero Ochieng and 2 Others v The Attorney General & Another [2012], Case summary Godfrey Kangaude.

Legal Grounds: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in African Commonwealth Courts
   (up to 2008) Volumes I and II can be downloaded here.  Our update will be published early in 2017.  Decisions already identified for Volume III  are online here.  New case summaries are added every month.   If you can suggest other cases, please do!   How You Can Help.




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