Health Advocates, Drug Industry Representatives Lobby Lawmakers for Support in Thailand Drug Licensing Dispute
International health advocates and drug industry representatives are lobbying U.S. lawmakers and the Bush administration for their support in the dispute over Thailand's decision to issue compulsory licenses for medications, including some antiretroviral drugs, CongressDaily reports (Vaughan, CongressDaily, 4/26). The Thai government in November 2006 and January issued compulsory licenses to produce lower-cost versions of Merck's antiretroviral drug Efavirenz and Abbott Laboratories' antiretroviral Kaletra, respectively. Since then, the government and drug companies have continued negotiations (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/25). Several advocates representing nongovernmental organizations in Thailand this week met with U.S. lawmakers in an effort to "counter drug industry associations about" the Thai government's decision to issue compulsory licenses, CongressDaily reports.
Jon Ungphakorn, a former member of Thailand's Senate, in his meeting with U.S. lawmakers said, "We want the U.S. government to show it cares about access to life saving drugs in the developing world." He said that Thailand acted within its rights under global trade regulations, adding, "The successes have been achieved after the compulsory license, really for the whole world" (CongressDaily, 4/26). In addition, about 100 health advocates on Thursday gathered outside Thailand's Ministry of Commerce to urge officials to decide whether Abbott violated the law when it announced it was withdrawing applications to sell seven new drugs in the country, the Bangkok Post reports (Apiradee/Phusadee, Bangkok Post, 4/27).
Meanwhile, USA for Innovation, an intellectual property rights group associated with the drug industry, this week sent a petition to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab urging her and other Bush administration officials to label Thailand as a "violator" in its annual report of intellectual property issues worldwide, according to CongressDaily. In the letter, the group's executive director, Ken Adelman, said that Thailand should be placed on the Priority Watch List, adding, "The important distinction between theft of American assets on the streets of Bangkok and theft of American assets in Thailand's public health care system is that the latter is sanctioned, endorsed and promoted by the government of Thailand." Adelman's letter was timed to coincide with a planned visit to Washington, D.C., by Thai Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla, who canceled his visit because of an illness, according to advocates. The Office of the United States Trade Representative's report is scheduled to be released on Monday, according to CongressDaily. U.S. officials have been reluctant to comment on the Thailand dispute, CongressDaily reports. The drug industry also has "kept a low profile" on the issue, allowing group like USA for Innovation to be involved, according to CongressDaily (CongressDaily, 4/26).