Thai Health Ministry Breaks Patent, Issues Compulsory License for Abbott’s Antiretroviral Kaletra
Thailand's Ministry of Public Health on Monday said that it has broken a patent on Abbott Laboratories' antiretroviral drug Kaletra by issuing a compulsory license to produce a lower-cost version of the drug, Reuters UK reports. According to Health Minister Mongkol na Songkhla, the compulsory license was signed into law and took effect on Friday (Pongpiphat, Reuters UK, 1/29). World Trade Organization regulations allow governments to declare a "national emergency" and issue compulsory licenses without consulting the foreign patent owner. Thailand, which has 580,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, has won international recognition for its quick launch of a national drug program that treats more than 82,000 HIV-positive people. However, the government's commitment to providing universal access to care is facing increasingly high drug costs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/26). Kaletra currently costs about $347 per patient monthly, and the lower-priced version could cost about $120 per patient monthly, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/29). According to Reuters UK, the compulsory license could save the country as much as $24 million annually. "We have to do this because we don't have enough money to buy safe and necessary drugs for the people under the government's universal health scheme," Mongkol said. Some HIV/AIDS advocates welcomed the announcement concerning Kaletra, according to Reuters UK (Reuters UK, 1/29). According to MSF, lowering the cost of Kaletra will make the drug more widely available. Some pharmaceutical companies criticized the decision, saying that they might have to reconsider their investments in Thailand (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/29). According to Teera Chakajnorodom, chair of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers' Association, the group might petition the country's Administrative Court, which rules on the legality of government actions, to block the compulsory license (Reuters UK, 1/29). "After the company does 10 years of research, and then suddenly the Thai government would like to impose the compulsory license, taking away their property, their assets -- this is not a good practice," Teera said, adding that the government says the drug is "far too expensive for the Thai public to have access. But they never approached the companies before. Everything is negotiable" (Zamiska, Wall Street Journal, 1/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.