Thai NGOs Criticize Government Plan To Distribute Excess Antiretroviral Drugs to Other Countries
Thai health advocates have criticized a Ministry of Public Health plan to offer to neighboring countries excess generic antiretroviral drugs produced by the government, the Bangkok Post reports (Apiradee, Bangkok Post, 5/31). The health ministry currently distributes domestically produced antiretroviral drugs to approximately 70,000 HIV-positive people through state hospitals and has been able to reduce the price of the drugs from at least $500 per person per month to about $30 per person per month through domestic production. Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan last week said that the country plans to increase its drug production in 2005 to treat approximately 200,000 people, and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said that the country plans to offer the extra drugs to neighboring countries (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/25). However, Sureerat Treemanka, a representative of the Network for Thai NGOs on Health, said that less than 50,000 of the 312,419 HIV-positive people in Thailand are receiving the domestically produced drugs and that local patients should be a priority for the government. In addition, the government this year is expected to take on more financial responsibility for the drug program with the expiration of a Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria grant, according to the Post. "If the government really intends to help HIV-positive patients in neighboring countries, it should also come up with a long-term cooperation plan with those governments that support not only a cocktail of anti-AIDS drugs, but also medical know-how," Sureerat said, adding, "That will make them stand on their own feet to treat their patients without causing us much burden." However, Sudarat said that the plan demonstrates the country's commitment to helping neighboring countries as stipulated in health cooperation agreements, according to the Post (Bangkok Post, 5/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.