People Living With HIV/AIDS in Thailand Protest Health Minister’s Plan To Review Legality of Compulsory Licenses
A network of people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other conditions on Saturday gathered at the office of Chaiya Sasomsap, Thailand's minister of public health, to protest his decision to review the legality of compulsory licenses issued by the country, Thailand's Nation reports (Pongphon, Nation, 2/10).
Chaiya last week announced that he has invited a committee to review the legality of compulsory licenses issued by outgoing Thai Public Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla. Mongkol had issued compulsory licenses for certain medicines, including the antiretroviral drugs Aluvia and Efavirenz. According to Chaiya, the committee will comprise senior officials from Thailand's Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce. Representatives from drug manufacturers also will be invited to discuss the law and the consequences that resulted from the compulsory licenses, Chaiya said. He added that he has asked officials to determine if implementation of the compulsory licenses was approved by former Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont or if the decision was made by Mongkol.
Chaiya last week said the compulsory licenses "might have been a politically correct decision, but not legally correct." He added, "I can assure you that we won't lift the licenses now. My policy is to review it and find out what caused it and tackle those causes" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/8).
According to Chaiya, the commerce ministry has told him that the inclusion of Thailand on the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative's priority watch list "would have an impact on the economy and international trade with the U.S." (Nation, 2/10). He added that saving 500 million baht, or about $16 million, through the compulsory policy "would mean nothing compared to the damages we could suffer if billions of baht worth of our exports are boycotted."
Nimit Tienudom, director of the AIDS Access Foundation, said the group will monitor Chaiya's performance, particularly with the country's compulsory license policy, the Bangkok Post reports. Nimit said, "It will be a shame if he [terminates the licenses], as the country would lose so much and the poor would be deprived of life-saving drugs." Permanent Secretary for Health Prat Boonyawongwirote said he and Chaiya will discuss and review the compulsory license policy with commerce officials on Feb. 12 (Apiradee, Bangkok Post, 2/9).