In loving memory of Tobeka Daki
By the Fix the Patent Laws (FTPL) Coalition
It is with great sadness that the Fix the Patent Laws (FTPL) coalition shares news of Tobeka Daki’s death. Tobeka, was a single mother from Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, a daughter, a friend, a woman living with HER2 positive breast cancer, a support group member and an advocate for equal and affordable access to medicines for all.
Tobeka was diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer in 2013. At this time, Tobeka was told by her oncologist that she needed trastuzumab – in addition to chemotherapy – which would increase her chances of beating cancer and living a long and healthy life. Trastuzumab is recommended by the World Health Organisation as an essential treatment for HER2 positive breast cancer – a more aggressive type of cancer, with higher recurrence and mortality rates than HER2 negative cancer.
Despite being a good candidate for trastuzumab, and being a member of a medical scheme, Tobeka was unable to access this treatment due to its extremely high cost and inaccessibility in most public sector facilities. The cancer spread to her spine and, on 14 November 2016, Tobeka died in her home.
As an advocate for medicine access, Tobeka spoke out about her inability to access trastuzumab in the FTPL campaign for affordable and equitable access to trastuzumab. On World Cancer Day (4 February) 2016, Tobeka was featured in a short video that highlighted the challenges facing women in South Africa seeking treatment for HER2 positive breast cancer. In March of 2016, Tobeka told her story in front of the United Nations High Level Panel on Access to Medicines, which pledged to remedy incoherence between patent rights and health rights. Later that month Tobeka led a picket in front of Roche’s offices in Pretoria to protest the high price charged by Roche, which prevented her from accessing the potentially life-saving treatment.
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