'The Politics of National Intellectual Property Policy Design and the Provision of Health Services in South Africa'
(2015) 3 South African Intellectual Property Journal 15 – 39
Posted: 15 Apr 2016
Date Written: 2005
This paper discusses the PharmaGate incident which followed the release of South Africa’s draft national IP policy. This incident consisted of a public exchange between a pharma organisation and the Minister of Health about a strategy developed for the organisation to counter the state’s patent law reform plans and its impact on access to medicines. The paper uses critical discourse analysis to examine the strategy and the parties’ statements. It makes three arguments. First, that the main rhetorical devices in their discourse were intentionally based on war or combative metaphors. Secondly, it finds that the state’s position, as articulated by the Minister, falls into the narratives of “unity and Ubuntu” and “liberation ethic and demands of nationhood.” This stance sought to advance the interests of the global south in a spirit of Ubuntu and asserted the state’s sovereign right to set its own policy and legislative path in the interests of its citizenry.
Consequently, the state rejected what it perceived as an intrusion and misdirection by international business interests. Finally, the paper argues that the parties in this encounter employed arguments that have been made at international fora and illustrates the iterative relationship between national and international health diplomacy debates.This paper has several implications for health policy makers, interest groups and the public at large. Primarily, it shows that the imagery and rhetoric used in such IP and health policy discourse is of great significance and that this behooves ethical choices by parties to discourse. The paper’s methodology demonstrates how to deconstruct rhetoric. Such deconstruction is useful for policy makers in their engagement with stakeholder submissions. It is also of use to participants and followers of IP and health policy debates. Hopefully, such awareness will make for unbiased evaluation of policy options and more intentional and appropriate interventions.
Keywords: Intellectual Property, Law, Health, Policy, South Africa
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