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Drug Licensing
August 24, 2007
Compulsory licensing of life-saving medicine to proceed

The Thai government has been advised to inform the US government that it will stand firm on breaking patent provisions to produce cheaper generic versions of life-saving medicines.

Dr. Wichai Chokevivatana who chairs a committee on compulsory licensing in the Public Health Ministry, made the recommendation after an inter-agency meeting on Friday to consider the Thai government's response to an official letter from US Ambassador to Thailand Ralph Boyce to Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont.

In the letter, the US administration asked the Thai government to suspend compulsory licensing of patented medicine.

Representatives of the ministries of Health, Commerce, Science and Technology and Foreign Affairs, as well as from civil society organisations including the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS unanimously supported the stance that Thailand must continue to forego patent restrictions to make life-saving medicine such as anti-retroviral drugs cheaper and thereby more accessible to the poor.

Dr. Wichai said Thailand will use CL only as last resort and will do so in strict compliance with provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS, under the
World Trade Organisation. Another legal basis for the Thai government to execute CL is provided for in the state obligation to provide universal healthcare service to Thai citizens under the National Health Insurance Act.

"Thailand will respect international rules and Thai law and will not enforce compulsory licensing arbitrarily," he said, adding, that CL requires a ministerial approval process.

Dr. Wichai noted that no government in this world – not even the US administration – rules out compulsory licensing. Any move to initiate CL on parts of Thailand will be enacted only after thorough research, he added.

Meanwhile former senator Jon Ungpakorn, Secretary-General of Aids Access Foundation, a non-government organisation working with HIV-positive people, endorsed the Thai government's stance to press on with CL.  TNA reports

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