Generic Drug Patent Intellectual Property - Mavasatac Cancer Campaign Photograph by TAC

“If I can get this treatment, I can live longer”

Tobeka Daki - Cancer patient, activist, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Photograph by TAC
Generic Drug Patent Intellectual Property - Mavasatac Cancer Campaign Photograph by TAC

What stands between people and the drugs they need?

Drug companies hold patents giving them a monopoly on treatments. Patent laws and regulations can keep drug prices high. 

The MSF Access Campaign works with others to advocate to overcome monopolies and bring prices down and make more medicines affordable and available.

At times, we also try to change the patent laws and regulations to facilitate these results.

For Tobeka Daki, the price was just too high.

This single mother of two started treatment for aggressive HER2-positive breast cancer in 2013. Along with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, her oncologist ordered a medicine called trastuzumab.

The World Health Organization recommends it for controlling her type of cancer and it is the standard of care in wealthy countries.

The price charged by the only pharmaceutical corporation selling it within Africa? About US$35,000 per year. 

Tobeka tried to get access to the drug. But because the drug was expensive and hard for public health systems to get, her request was denied.

Tobeka never got the trastuzumab she needed. Her cancer returned in 2015. She died the following year.

Three things to know about intellectual property


In this unprecedented global emergency, governments have taken an incredibly strong stance at the World Trade Organization (WTO), proposing to allow countries to temporarily waive the obligations of enforcing patents, trade secrets and other types of intellectual property (IP) during the COVID-19 pandemic – to boost global production and supply so that everyone, everywhere has access to lifesaving treatments, vaccines, tests and other medical tools needed to beat back this pandemic.

Support this action by urging these last remaining opponents of the TRIPS Waiver to show global solidarity and stop blocking it!