Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul kakablueblue at gmail.com
Tue Dec 4 00:32:53 PST 2012

December 4, 2012 1:00 am
 Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) yesterday joined forces in
demanding that the Cabinet refuse to endorse extra protection for drug
patent holders. They are worried that the increased protection under TRIPS
Plus will hurt patients' access to much-needed medicines. These are tighter
measures than those imposed by the earlier Agreement on Trade-Related
Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights under the World Trade Organisation.

"Please don't hurt Thais' health," said Apiwat Kwangkaew, chairman of the
Thai Network of People living with HIV/Aids.

Joining his call are several organisations that have been fighting for
patients' and consumers' rights.

They submitted a written petition to Public Health Minister Pradit
Sinthawanarong amid reports that the Cabinet will today consider the
negotiation framework for the free-trade-area agreement between Thailand
and the European Union.

Apiwat said lower tariffs for certain products could never be compared to
the health of people.

"In addition, the lower tariffs will likely benefit just some investment
groups," he said.

Apiwat said his concerns were growing because the Commerce Ministry had
never disclosed the information on the ongoing FTA negotiations with the EU.

"I am worried that the negotiations will lead to the extension of drug
patents' validity." He insisted that the government should just follow the
protection of intellectual-property rights in line with WTO regulations,
not TRIPS Plus.

Foundation for Consumers board member Kannikar Kijtivejakul questioned why
the Public Health Ministry did not reaffirm its stance against drug
monopoly any more after the government was pushing ahead with the FTA

"If the government goes for the TRIPS Plus, we will petition the Central
Administrative Court," she said.

Pradit yesterday assured the NGOs that when it came to drug issues, the
country would lose nothing in signing the FTA agreement with the EU.
 No plus for patients as EU deal trips

   - Published:
12:00 AM
   - Newspaper section:

      Saturday, Dec 1, marked World Aids Day, a celebration of the
achievements in combating this disease and a day to highlight the
challenges that lay ahead if the world is finally to be rid of this deadly

A2010file photoshows an activist holding a placard lending support to
India’s tough stance against Trips-plus provisions duringarally in Bangkok.

In past years, Thailand has often been praised for its progressive policies
to address the HIV/Aids pandemic, including the promotion of universal
access to anti-retroviral drugs.

It has also been recognised in the international public health arena as a
country that had a progressive public health policy, and had a firm
position against unfair trade rules affecting access to medicines.

Thailand was also applauded by the global community of people living with
HIV/Aids and international agencies that work to combat HIV/Aids for its
courage in enforcing the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual
Property Rights (Trips).

By making its people's health a priority over threatened trade sanctions,
Thailand's actions in issuing a number of compulsory licences encouraged
other developing countries, such as Brazil, India and Indonesia, to follow
suit and make use of Trips' public health safeguards.

The compulsory licencing component of the Trips agreement effectively
allows individuals or companies to use a patented drug without seeking the
patent-holder's permission. Instead, they simply pay a set fee.

This has allowed for the proliferation of inexpensive generic-brand

However, Thailand's recent position on the Thailand-European Union free
trade negotiations is very worrying. It seems the Thai government is no
longer willing to stand firm against accepting any and all Trips-plus
provisions. Many of these provisions have much tougher patent law
conditions than stated in Trips, and may adversely affect access to

In its rush to gain access to the European market for chicken and seafood,
the Thai government has underestimated the massive impact on public health
that such a weak negotiating position will bring.

One of the Trips-plus provisions being discussed in the Thai- EU free trade
agreement is the introduction of "data exclusivity" into Thai law. Such a
move provides a monopoly distinct from patent rights that often results in
high prices and a delay in market entry of generics.

As a part of the US-Jordan free trade agreement, Jordan implemented data
exclusivity. A study conducted by Oxfam in 2007 found that of the 103
medicines registered and launched since 2001 that had no patent protection
in Jordan, at least 79% had no competition from a generic equivalent as a
consequence of data exclusivity.

The study also found that prices of these medicines under data exclusivity
were up to 800% higher than in neighbouring Egypt.

A 2010 CPath study determined that once Guatemala enacted data exclusivity,
some medicine prices rose as much as 846% _ even though just a handful of
medicines were under patent protection.

If Thailand accepts such demands from the European Union negotiators, then
the Thai government is putting its own national health insurance system at
risk of collapse, despite the fact that the universal health insurance
system has been a key policy of this government.

The government's negotiating team argue that if they take a strong position
against Trips-plus, then the EU will walk away from the negotiating table.
This is simply not true.

As we saw with the EU-India negotiations, the Indians stood firm on their
"no Trips-plus" position and the European Union recently announced that
intellectual property rights would be removed from negotiations.

We would therefore take this opportunity to request that the Thai
government ensure that forthcoming negotiations with the European Union
will not adversely affect the cost and access to medicines and medical
technologies by stating clearly and firmly in the framework of negotiations
that all Trips-plus demands be excluded.

*Paul Cawthorne is Access Campaign Coordinator _ Asia, Medecins sans

Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul

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