Thailand Issued Compulosry Licences For Drugs For Its Poorest People, And Its Reward Was Pressure From Rich Nations

January 22, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

In the third Comment which accompanies The Lancet Series on Trade and Health, former Thailand health minister Mongkol Na Songkhla looks back on his nation’s issuing of compulsory drug licences so that its poorest HIV sufferers could have access to vital antiretroviral drugs. Despite the action being perfectly legal under TRIPS flexibilities, it was a project that incurred retaliation and pressure from richer nations, eager to protect the trade interests of the big pharmaceutical companies.

He says: “While Thailand, with worldwide support from civil-society groups and academics, was battling against trade sanctions and threats imposed by the greater economies, inadequate support was provided by WHO and the World Trade Organization.” He also refers to the double-standards seen in compulsory licensing When the USA and Canada used it for ciprofloxacin in response to the increasing threat of anthrax terrorism, they did not face sanctions.

But the actions of the Thai government have seen essential drugs reach many of their poorest citizens. Mr Songkhla says: “The information provided by the National Health Security Office indicates substantial improvement in access to medicines from the use of compulsory licensing. In September, 2008, for instance, the number of Thai people with HIV/AIDS and taking efavirenz in the public sector was 20 000, compared with only 5000 if the generic version had not been prescribed in the compulsory licensing plan.”

He concludes: “While Thai patients benefit significantly from the use of TRIPS flexibilities, it is a moral imperative and global responsibility to ensure better access to essential medicines in other resource-poor countries. To achieve that goal, I call for policy coherence between global trade and health institutions-to put the human faces into their policy decisions.”


Tony Kirby

Press Officer

The Lancet

32 Jamestown Road






Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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