Thai FDA Head Removed From Post, Health Minister Says
Siriwat Thiptharadon, head of Thailand's Food and Drug Administration and an engineer of the former government's compulsory license program, has been removed from his post, Public Health Minister Chaiya Sasomsap said on Tuesday, Reuters reports. Siriwat, who also served as Thailand's primary negotiator with pharmaceutical companies that oppose the country's compulsory license program, has been moved to an inactive post, according to Reuters. Chaiya said that moving Siriwat to an inactive post was "not about" the compulsory license "issue," it was "about appropriateness." Chatree Banchuen, a senior Ministry of Public Health official, has been appointed as the new FDA head and lead negotiator on drug prices (Reuters, 2/26).
Chaiya earlier this month announced that he has invited a committee to review the legality of compulsory licenses issued by former 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 health ministry, 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/12).
By inviting the committee to review the compulsory licenses, Chaiya is "thinking about restoring intellectual property rights to their rightful owners -- the pharmaceutical companies" -- a Wall Street Journal Asia editorial says. Chaiya also is "trying to clean up the mess bequeathed by" Mongkol, the editorial says, adding that Chaiya is "worried both about Thai patients' access to new drugs and trade sanctions against Thailand for seizing patents." However, some nongovernmental organizations, such as Oxfam International and Medecins Sans Frontieres, have "inculcated the public with scare stories about how Big Pharma has it in for Thai consumers," according to the editorial. It adds that what is "missing here is the other side of the argument. Many drug companies tier their pricing, charging developed countries more and developing countries, such as Thailand, less."
According to the editorial, Thailand "also faces a range of delivery problems that raise the ultimate cost of drugs to consumers, including high taxes on imports." In addition, "seizing patents also puts patients at risk of importing nonbranded, lower-quality drugs," the editorial adds. Chaiya's "job is to look after the health of the Thai people, not the political motivations of NGOs," the editorial says, concluding that it is "clear what serves Thais best: drug companies that are incentivized, through the profit motive, to research and develop new drugs" (Wall Street Journal Asia, 2/27).