Thai Court Removes Bristol-Myers’ Exclusive Rights to Produce, Market AIDS Drug Didanosine
Thailand's Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court yesterday ruled in favor of the AIDS ACCESS Foundation, the Thai Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS and two AIDS patients by ordering U.S. drug manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb to amend its Thai patent on the antiretroviral drug didanosine, Thailand's Nation reports (Sakboon, Thailand Nation, 10/2). The decision removed Bristol-Myers' exclusive right to market didanosine in Thailand (Thepgumpanat, Reuters Health, 10/1). According to the Associated Press, the court ruled that part of Bristol-Myers' patent on the drug, marketed as Videx EC, was invalid and that the drug company has the exclusive right to produce didanosine only in doses from five milligrams to 100 milligrams, while other drug companies could produce the drug in larger doses (Noikorn, Associated Press, 10/1). Bristol-Myers, in its original patent application filed in July 1992, asked that its patent be extended to cover only a "range of 5 mg to 100 mg per unit of use." In 1997, Bristol-Myers amended its patent and omitted the dosage restriction (Thailand Nation, 10/2).
Advocates Hail Decision
Thai HIV/AIDS activists "welcomed" the court's decision. "This is the first court victory of HIV/AIDS patients," AIDS ACCESS Executive Director Nimit Tienudom said, adding, "We expect this ruling will set a precedent for other AIDS advocacy groups and patients to follow." The advocacy groups and the patients argued that limiting Bristol-Myers' exclusive rights to produce and market the drug and allowing state-owned drug manufacturers to produce the drug could cut its price in half for HIV-positive Thai patients (Reuters Health, 10/1). The AIDS advocacy groups and the two AIDS patients have filed suit to "force" the drug company to completely withdraw its patent on didanosine, according to Onanong Bunjumnong of the international medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres. Onanong said that yesterday's success is only the "first stage" and that it "cleared the way" for a court hearing on the plaintiffs' second case against Bristol-Myers, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 9 (AFX News, 10/2). Bristol-Myers has 30 days to appeal yesterday's court decision. Approximately 700,000 people in Thailand are HIV-positive, and an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 new infections occur each year, according to Reuters Health (Reuters Health, 10/1).