April 20, 2012 / 3:38 PM / 8 years ago

Kenyan court ruling upholds access to generic drugs

NAIROBI, April 20 (Reuters) - Kenya’s High court ruled on Friday that lawmakers must review legislation that could threaten the import of generic drugs, allowing Kenyans to continue accessing affordable medicine.

Three people living with HIV filed a lawsuit in 2009 that said Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Bill of 2008 was unconstitutional because it threatened access to life-saving generic medicine by confusing generic and fake medicine.

Health activists had argued the definition of counterfeit medicines was too broad and if passed, the legislation could threaten the importation of generic drugs.

Generic medicines constitute the lion’s share of medicines used in Kenya, and have enabled poor people in the developing country to get the necessary treatment for various ailments.

A previous court order issued before Friday’s ruling had blocked the act from coming into force, and Friday ruling means lawmakers will now have to amend the bill to clearly distinguish between generic and counterfeit drugs.

“The act is vague and could undermine access to affordable generic medicines since the act had failed to clearly distinguish between counterfeit and generic medicines,” Judge Mumbi Ngugi said in her ruling.

Kenya has 1.5 million people living with HIV out of a population of about 40 million people and a little over 500,000 of those infected with the virus have access to anti retro viral medication, the vast majority of which is classified as generic.

“This ruling speaks against any ambiguity that serves to undermine access to generic medicines and puts the lives of people before profit,” Patricia Asero, one of the three petitioners, said in a statement issued by Medecins Sans Frontieres. (Reporting by Humphrey Malalo and Yara Bayoumy; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Alison Williams)

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