Meds and you

11 March 2008

Thailand to ignore patents

The Thai Public Health Ministry said Monday it would advise the government to continue ignoring patents on four cancer-fighting drugs.

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The Thai Public Health Ministry said Monday it would advise the government to continue ignoring patents on four cancer-fighting drugs, a move that allows cheaper generic versions to be imported and manufactured in Thailand.

Public Health Minister Chaiya Sasomsup said in a statement he would inform Commerce Minister Mingkwan Saengsuwan of the decision Tuesday.

On January 4, less than a month before leaving office, the government of former Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont issued compulsory licenses for four drugs - Novartis' Imatinib and Letrozole, Sanofi-Aventis' Docetaxel, and Roche's Erlotinib.

Pressure from the US
Chaiya said last month he would review those licenses, after the Commerce Ministry suggested that continuing to ignore certain drug patents could disrupt trade with the United States.

Novartis AG and Roche Holding AG are Swiss, and Sanofi-Aventis SA is French.

The drugs lose their patent protection under a global "compulsory licensing" concept that makes some drugs more affordable by taking away the patent holder's ability to control the drug's price.

National public health emergency
There are several conditions under which international trade and patent laws allow compulsory licensing, one of the most notable being the right to manufacture a generic drug in case of a national public health emergency.

The ministry statement said it favoured keeping compulsory licensing on the anti-cancer drugs because it would save more than 3 billion baht (US$95 million; €62 million) a year of government money, and allow an affordable supply of the most effective medicine to go to those who needed them.

At the same time, however, it said it was willing to continue talking with the manufacturers about providing the drugs at lower prices. – (Reuters Health)

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March 2008

 

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