Thailand Plans To Provide Generic Antiretroviral Medications to 300,000 HIV-Positive Individuals in Two Years
Thailand plans to have the ability to provide generic antiretroviral medications to 300,000 HIV-positive individuals within two years, according to Isaraet Gosriwatana, international sales manager for the Government Pharmaceutical Organization in the Thai Public Health Ministry, the Bangkok Post reports. GPO currently provides GPO-VIR -- a generic antiretroviral drug that combines three medications into one pill -- to 50,000 HIV-positive Thai residents, and it should have the ability to offer the treatment to 300,000 individuals after a new state-administered manufacturing facility opens in 2006, Gosriwatana said. Thailand plans to provide the medications to HIV-positive individuals in Thailand and other nations, with Myanmar -- also known as Burma -- and Cambodia "topping the list," according to the Post (Treerutkuarkul, Bangkok Post, 10/3). Last month, health officials from Thailand delivered one million condoms and a supply of generic antiretroviral medications for 200 Myanmar residents to help limit the spread of HIV among migrant workers. The medications represented the first part of a three-year supply commitment from Thailand to Myanmar (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/23). The generic antiretroviral medications produced in Thailand cost less than $300 annually per patient. Similar medications cost more than $8,000 annually per patient in North America and Europe, Xinhua News Agency reports (Xinhua News Agency, 10/3).
Compulsory Licenses Sought
GPO also has sent a proposal to the Thai government to adopt compulsory licensing for the antiretroviral medications lopinavir and efavirenz, known by the brand names Kaletra and Sustiva, respectively, the Post reports. Generic versions of the medications could reduce costs by as much as 80% (Bangkok Post, 10/3). However, a free-trade agreement currently under negotiation with the United States could threaten the generic antiretroviral medication industry in Thailand, according to Medicins Sans Frontieres. U.S. trade officials hope to negotiate a series of agreements to improve patent protection of brand-name medications, such as antiretroviral treatments (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/12). Amal Naj, a Pfizer country manager who represents the pharmaceutical industry in the negotiations, said that such agreements are necessary to allow the continued development of new antiretroviral medications. "We have to invest $500 million to $800 million a year to research and develop the next generation of ARV drugs," Naj said, adding, "No matter how low we bring down the price, poor people can still not afford the drug" (Bangkok Post, 10/3).