[Ip-health] HIV/Aids drugs licence extended

Baker, Brook b.baker at neu.edu
Wed Aug 4 06:13:21 PDT 2010

Thailand should be congratulated and supported for its decision to extend
government use licenses for efavirenz and lopinavir/ritonavir through the
remainder of their patent terms.  During the past 3 years of the initial
licenses, Thailand has already saved nearly $40 million and stands to save
another $100+ million over the remaining lives of the patents.  More
importantly, these dramatically cheaper generic equivalents of assured
quality are producing better treatment options and enhanced survival for
thousands of people-living-with-HIV in Thailand.

Close watchers of US policy may have wondered why the US has continued to
place Thailand on its Special 301 Priority Watch list 2007-2010 and why it
is conducting an out-of-cycle review this year.  Although the US's
histrionic enforcement agenda is clearly a major factor, the US has also
continued to make unveiled and veiled references to Thailand's 2006/2008
issuance of compulsory licenses for AIDS, cancer, and heart disease
medicines.  Although earlier versions of the US Special 301 Report directly
referenced Thailand's issuance of compulsory licenses and its erroneously
alleged failure to have consulted with Big Pharma right holders, the 2010
Report was more circumspect:  "The United States encourages Thailand to
engage in a meaningful and transparent manner with all relevant
stakeholders, including owners of intellectual property rights, as it
considers ways to address Thailand's public health challenges while
maintaining a patent system that promotes investment, research, and

Because of its efforts to impose TRIPS-plus standards on patents, data
protection, and enforcement and its unlawful threats against trading
partners for using TRIPS-compliant flexibilities, Health GAP, the Thai
Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, and other AIDS activist
organizations have filed a formal complaint with the UN Special Rapporteur
on Health asking that he conduct a human rights review of the US's Special
301 program.

Despite the US's not so subtle warning on the eve of the original licenses'
expiration, Thailand is once again opting to use a fully TRIPS-compliant
flexibility to ensure access to life-saving medicines at a considerable
discount from tiered-pricing offered by Big Pharma.  Hopefully, the US will
stop acting as the bully-boy for Abbott and BMS and acknowledge that
Thailand is performing its sovereign duty to ensure its residents' right to
health while simultaneously preserving scarce government resources.

At the same time that Thailand extends its existing licenses, it should
consider issuing a supplementary license on stand-alone, heat-stable
ritonavir so that it might later have the option of using ritonavir as a
booster for other more affordable and effective protease inhibitors such as

Professor Brook K. Baker
Health GAP (Global Access Project)
Northeastern U. School of Law
Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy
400 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115 USA
(w) 617-373-3217
(cell) 617-259-0760
(fax) 617-373-5056
b.baker at neu.edu

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