African Countries Should ‘Find Resolve’ To Issue Compulsory Licenses ‘When They See Fit,’ Opinion Piece Says
African countries should "find the resolve to follow Thailand's example" and issue compulsory licenses to produce reduced-cost versions of patented antiretroviral drugs "when they see fit," Lara Santoro, who worked as a journalist in Africa from 1997 to 2004, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece (Santoro, Los Angeles Times, 10/9).
The Thai government in November 2006 and January issued compulsory licenses to produce lower-cost versions of Merck's antiretroviral Efavirenz and Abbott Laboratories' antiretroviral Kaletra, respectively. Since then, the government and drug companies have continued negotiations (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/16). Santoro writes that "contrary to common perception, Thailand's move was, and remains, in perfect observance of international law." Some countries -- including Kenya, Uganda and South Africa -- "have not only the manufacturing base needed to copy and reproduce drugs for a fraction of their costs, they also have the right" to do so, Santoro writes. She adds that African countries should grant compulsory licenses because by doing so, "they would put an end to a drug monopoly whose human cost brings shame to us all" (Los Angeles Times, 10/9).