Thailand Chooses Life Over Drug Patents and U.S. Deadly Pressure

5 de may de 2007

<body><div id="article"><tr><td height="28" valign="middle" width="184"></td><td valign="middle" width="185"></td></tr><h1>Thailand Chooses Life Over Drug Patents and U.S. Deadly Pressure</h1><p>May 4 (EIRNS)--Despite screaming from the drug companies and apparent subversion from the U.S. government, Dr. Mongkol Na Songkhla, Thailand's Minister of Health, said that "Economic interests cannot be compared with saving human lives and protecting the public health," upholding Thailand's right and intention to produce generic drugs for AIDS and certain heart conditions. Nations are allowed under World Trade Organization rules to issue "compulsory licenses" for domestic companies to produce certain drugs, breaking foreign patents, when it is a matter of life or death. Thus, the U.S. government can officially only complain about Thailand's stand against Merck and Abbott labs. However, it is widely believed in Thailand, according to an article in the {Bangkok Post} today, that the decision earlier this week by the U.S. Office of the Trade Representative (USTR) to place Thailand on the "Priority Watch List," threatening sanctions on Thailand's exports to the United States, is not about videos and textiles as claimed, but is retaliation for the compulsory licensing of these drugs. The {Post} notes that the compulsory licensing is the only new reason cited in the Special 301 Report from the USTR this year.</p><p>Also today, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced compulsory licensing on the AIDS drug Efavirenz, produced by Merck & Co., to limit costs of the free treatment offered to all 200,000 people in the country infected with AIDS and the HIV virus. Bloomberg quoted, Michel Lotrowska, Brazil's representative at Doctors Without Borders: "This is progress, as it's the only way to cut drug prices, since patents don't allow a natural competition in the market." This is one of the drugs at issue in Thailand as well. Under international humanitarian pressure, Merck offered to lower the price by 30%, but the cost would still be far greater than the cost of the generics, and the offer was rejected.</p></div></body>