THAILAND: Doctor Urges Drug Companies to Lower Prices
"The more data I see about HIV being a treatable disease, the more frustrated I become," Thai doctor Somnuek Sungkanuparph writes in a San Francisco Examiner op-ed. Stating that half of his HIV- and AIDS-infected patients cannot afford antiretroviral drugs, Sungkanuparph, a doctor with the infectious disease unit at Bangkok's Ramathibodi Hospital, laments that the "new, best medication is expensive, and the government cannot afford to pay for the drugs. There is just too much demand." Sungkanuparph states that the government of Thailand no longer funds antiretroviral treatment, as it formerly did when the "standard treatment" involved a mix of two drugs. Noting that only 10% to 20% of the population in Thailand can afford the drug therapy, Sungkanuparph says that he and others "have petitioned the drug companies to lower the price of the antiviral drugs, but they have not listened." Sungkanuparph writes that he takes information on drug costs to "organizations like San Francisco General Hospital's HIV/AIDS care unit and the World AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa." These venues, he writes, provide "a chance to reach out to doctors, researchers and social workers to help ... influence the drug companies." Sungkanuparph credits the current apathy in Thailand concerning HIV/AIDS to "[t]he prevailing attitude ... that the disease is something you brought on yourself. Some doctors view it as punishment. As a result, many patients are abandoned and others don't care." Sungkanuparph concludes by appealing directly to the drug companies and urging them to lower the prices of antiretroviral drugs. "This is not a profit issue, but a human one. If the drug companies can decrease the price of the remedies, then they can sell more drugs and their profits will not decrease much. They disagree and say that if they lower the price in Thailand, people from other countries will flock here to buy the medicine. How many people will do that? That's not the real reason" (Sungkanuparph, San Francisco Examiner, 10/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.