Abbott Refuses Invitation for Second Round of Talks With Thai Government Over Compulsory Licensing of Antiretroviral Kaletra
Pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories recently turned down an invitation for a second round of talks with the Thai government to discuss compulsory licenses issued by the country for certain medications, including the antiretroviral drug Kaletra, the Bangkok Post reports (Apiradee, Bangkok Post, 4/9). Abbott recently announced that it has withdrawn applications to sell seven new drugs in Thailand in response to the country's decision to issue a compulsory license for Kaletra. Thai Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla in January 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 on any grounds 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 provides treatment to more than 82,000 HIV-positive people. The compulsory license for Kaletra could save the country as much as $24 million annually. Abbott offered to lower Kaletra's cost to $167 per patient monthly, but representatives from the health ministry said the offer was still too high (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/28). According to the Post, the rejection is seen by some as the company's attempt to show its disapproval with Thailand's move to break the patent for Kaletra. Siriwat Thiptaradol, secretary-general of the country's Food and Drug Administration, said that Abbott had told the agency that it found the offer unacceptable. He added that he was not worried about Abbott's position and that health officials were looking for other options to replace drugs made by the company, the Post reports. Merck Sharp & Dohme and Sanofi-Aventis, patent-holders of the antiretroviral Efavirenz and the heart disease drug Plavix, respectively, will attend the meeting, the Post reports. According to the Post, MSD has offered to lower the price of Efavirenz to about $22 per bottle, but the government can buy the generic version of the drug for about $20 per bottle (Bangkok Post, 4/9). Mongkol recently said that he will expand the country's generic drug program to include more antiretroviral and cancer drugs unless pharmaceutical companies reduce their prices (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.