‘Biggest Winners’ in Thailand’s Decision To Issue Compulsory Licenses Are ‘Poor, Sick,’ Letter to Editor Says
The "biggest winners" in Thailand's decision to issue compulsory licenses for several medications, including two antiretroviral drugs, are the "poor and sick who would otherwise continue to be denied affordable medicines," Oxfam America President Raymond Offenheiser writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece in response to a recent Journal editorial (Offenheiser, Wall Street Journal, 5/8). The Journal editorial said that Thailand's decision to issue a compulsory license for Abbott Laboratories' antiretroviral Kaletra "goes against every principle of intellectual property protection" under World Trade Organization regulations, but Abbott has "undermined its own credibility" because of how it has dealt with the situation. The "Abbott precedent is a bad one for global property rights, and the biggest losers will be the world's poor and sick," the editorial said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/1).
According to Offenheiser, more stringent intellectual property rules "do not drive drug research for diseases that particularly affect poor people in developing countries." He adds, "With more than 500,000 HIV-positive people in need of antiretroviral medicines," the "growing burden of disease will threaten the health of Thai citizens and the country's economic productivity." The system established to "protect intellectual property rights exists for the sake of society, not for the enrichment of a few," Offenheiser writes, adding, "After all, expensive medicine in poor countries doesn't mean higher profit for drug companies, it just mean poor people don't get medicines" (Wall Street Journal, 5/8).