Thursday, June 14, 2007

UK support Thai compulsory licensing of AIDS drugs

Via Thiru Balasubramaniam and the A2k list: Campaigners secure the UK's support for Thailand's move to protect public health

"Earlier this year Thailand announced its plans to make urgently needed HIV/AIDS drugs affordable. This move was met with attacks from pharmaceutical companies and the US government...

The support of the international community for Thailand’s move is essential for encouraging developing countries to use measures to lower drug prices in order to provide essential medicines. Countries face both substantial technical and political barriers that stop them from using those measures.

Thailand’s case has highlighted the enormous political pressure countries face when making use of their right to protect public health:

* Brand name drug companies responded to Thailand’s move with threats of legal action and the withdrawal of investment. Abbott Laboratories went one step further by withdrawing life-saving medicines from Thailand’s market. Read about Abbott’s behaviour, and the response of campaigners

* Drug companies and their allies have launched misleading public ‘disinformation’ campaigns. One group, USA For Innovation (“a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of intellectual property and continued innovation around the globe”,) launched a website called Thai Lies and took out advertisements in Thai newspapers suggesting that Thai patients would now receive poor quality, unsafe medicines. USA for Innovation’s Director, Kenneth Adelman, also works for the PR company “Edelman”, who list Abbott and a number of other drugmakers among their largest clients.

* Despite admitting that Thailand was entirely within its rights, US government representatives suggested that Thailand’s move was not “in the spirit of the TRIPS agreement”. The US government has recently elevated Thailand to its 2007 “301 priority watch list” citing Thailand’s “weakening respect for patents”. This list identifies countries that are judged as failing to offer “adequate and effective protection” for US intellectual property ‘rights’. "

Apparently the UK Government's Department for International Development now supports the Thai government's stand:

“The Thai Government has made the decision to use these TRIPS flexibilities in the form of compulsory licensing based on their assessment of the public health need within Thailand. We support Thailand’s right to use compulsory licensing provisions in order to protect public health, and in particular, to promote access to medicines for all.

“We agree that Thailand’s stated use of compulsory licensing provisions has not broken any WTO rules as there is no obligation to negotiate with the rights holder if the products are for public non-commercial use.”

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