Thailand, Abbott Laboratories To Hold Talks Over Compulsory Licensing of Antiretroviral Kaletra
Thailand's Ministry of Public Health on Thursday and Friday will hold negotiations with Abbott Laboratories over a compulsory license the ministry issued last month for the company's antiretroviral Kaletra, Thailand's Nation reports (Sajirawattanakul, Nation, 2/7). Public Health Minister Mongkol na Songkhla last month signed the compulsory license, which allows Thailand to produce a lower-cost version of Kaletra, into law. 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. 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. The compulsory license could save the country as much as $24 million annually. Some HIV/AIDS advocates welcomed the announcement concerning Kaletra. 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. 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/30). According to Thawat Suntrajarn, director general of Thailand's Disease Control Department, the negotiations will allow Abbott to discuss compulsory licensing measures and possible offers to prevent compulsory licensing. "If the negotiations don't lead to satisfactory results, the Government Pharmaceutical Organization will contact the original drug companies to discuss royalties," Thawat said, adding that GPO then will "decide whether to buy the medicines from suppliers offering competitive prices or produce the medicines itself." National Health Security Office Secretary General Sanguan Nitayarumphong defended the compulsory licensing, saying that the ministry acted to ensure HIV-positive people have access to the drug. Sanguan added that Abbott has "reaped huge benefits from [Kaletra] sold at high prices for some time" and "should have compassion" (Nation, 2/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.