GSIPA2M: Malaysia Ministry of Health 2018 winner of the Leadership Award on Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines

Malaysia’s “historic decision” to issue a compulsory license on Hep C medicine, sofosbuvir, stands up to Big Pharma, and will mean the estimated 454,000 people living with Hep C in the country are set to receive the cure.

The Ministry of Health, Malaysia, received the Leadership Award during the Global Summit on Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines (GSIPA2M), in Marrakech, Morocco (15-17 January 2018). Dr. Salmah Bahri accepted the award on behalf of the Ministry.

The Ministry of Health in Malaysia officially announced the issue of a government use compulsory license (CL) on Hep C medicine, sofosbuvir, in September 2017 resisting pressure from the patent-holder, Gilead Sciences. Since the approval of the drug in 2013, sofosbuvir’s pricing and patents, and Gilead’s tactics to monopolize and divide markets, and protracted price negotiations with countries like Malaysia who were excluded from voluntary licenses, have been at the centre of several controversies worldwide. The CL opens the pathway for Malaysia to introduce real and robust generic competition that is needed to achieve significant price reductions and get the essential medicine to more citizens who need it.

[Last year] Malaysia’s Health Minister said ‘enough!’ to Gilead’s dangerous games with patients lives. – Mosime

Wame Mosime, Director of Global Programmes at ITPC, presented the award at the Summit’s closing ceremony. “On 20 September 2017, Malaysia’s Health Minister said ‘enough!’ to Gilead’s dangerous games with patients lives by using their right under the TRIPS Agreement and Malaysian law to issue a compulsory license,” said Mosime. “We hope other countries will do the same, or use other TRIPS flexibilities, and their rights as governments, to turn principles into actions when faced with unjust patents and the abuse of patent monopolies – and most importantly to place the health of their citizens over profits of corporations.”

We will not just stop at HIV and hepatitis drugs, we will move forward with all of you to make sure all medicines are available to all people, as a human right. – Dr. Bahri

Dr. Bahri accepted the award, saying: “We are facing a lot of challenges and need the support of this summit to face these… We will not just stop at HIV and hepatitis drugs, we will move forward with all of you to make sure all medicines are available to all people, as a human right.”

Fifa Rahman, Postgraduate Researcher, University of Leeds and Alternate Board Member for NGOs, Unitaid, expressed how she is “extremely proud of the efforts of the Ministry of Health, particularly the work of Abida Haq and Dr Salmah Bahri, and the leadership of the Director General of Health in issuing this compulsory licence and being an example to the world on access to medicines. It is my hope that civil society working on other diseases, such as cancer, are inspired by this. I want to also acknowledge the role of civil society in supporting the Ministry of Health with technical information, coordination meetings, and signals of support. Work was collaborative, persistent, and well-funded, and these factors are what produced this brilliant result”.

The Star in Malaysia reported the reaction of Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.He said: “A pride to the nation. Malaysia is a trailblazer when it comes to access to medicine for hepatitis C.”