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Thailand Widens The Scope Of Generic Drugs Available To The Public

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Thailand Manufacture Cheaper Pills Copycat Generic Retro Viral and Heart Disease Drugs

pills 2.thumbnail Thailand Widens The Scope Of Generic Drugs Available To The PublicThe Thai Government announced early this year that they would suspend patents on two major prescription drugs, one for treating AIDS and another for heart disease. The suspension-known as compulsory licensing- enables the Thai government to import or produce their own copycat version of the drugs, reducing the costs of providing free health care to its 64 million people.

The abrupt announced has startled the pharmaceutical industry. Teera Chakajnoradom, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association said,

We’re stunned by this decision. It’s never happened before in Thailand. We’ve never had compulsory licensing, not under any elected government.

Investors in Thailand were already uneasy as series of policy changes regarding foreign investment were introduced by the new military-backed government installed back in October last year. This move is yet another blow to foreign investors.

What makes the move so controversial is that Thailand are now widening the spectrum of public health issues considered severe enough to warrant an overriding of patents. In 2001, Thailand was among the 142 members of the World Trade Organization who signed the Doha Declaration, which confirmed the rights of poor countries to override the intellectual-property rights for public-health emergencies. The following year they began producing their own generic retroviral cocktail; rival to much more expensive imported brands, which brought the cost per patient down from 532 dollars a month to 34 dollars month.

pills 1.thumbnail Thailand Widens The Scope Of Generic Drugs Available To The PublicIn recent years countries such as Brazil and South Africa have also turned to generic copies of patented AIDS drugs to force companies to reduce their cost or lose market access. Now Thailand have also introduced the compulsory licensing for heart disease drugs, Pharmaceutical companies warn that Thailand may push to break other patents on drugs prescribed for other illnesses. Pharmaceutical companies also complain that overriding patents deters them from reinvesting into research for new medicines.

The Thai Government have been know to subsidize resources in the past, in 2002 former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra introduced the ’30 Baht’ medical scheme, a program in which Thais would pay only 30 baht (approx 90 cents) for treatment. The 30 baht scheme helped Mr. Thaksin win a landslide reelection in 2005.

Whilst the Thai Government may be willing to negotiate the move has still been made. Health Minister Mongkol na Songkhla told reporters,

We are willing to negotiate with the companies if they are willing to give some discounts for the import of their originals.

Mr. Teera said manufacturers were willing to be flexible,

We realize the problem of budget constraints of the Ministry of Public Health and we appreciate their efforts to provide better healthcare to patients but compulsory licensing won’t solve the problem. The best way is to negotiate.

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