Despite a huge controversy about compulsory licensing of medecines (since december 2006)… The Health Minister seems willing to continue on this dangerous path.
I know that the issue is sensitive. And I know also that it seems ethically difficult to be against such policy (who would like to let a child dying of AIDS, because his parents can’t afford a proper treatment ?)…
However, and as usual, we need to see the broader picture, and put aside the easy moral clichés.
First, Thailand used a very specific clause of WTO, to advocate compulsory licensing. Fair enough.
Under World Trade Organization rules, a government is allowed to declare a “national emergency” and license the production or sale of a patented drug without the permission of the foreign patent owner.
But who can reasonably think that Plavix -a blockbuster anti-clotting- is a “national emergency” ? Plavix reduces the risk of coronary diseases, of people who smoke, drink alcohol and/or have bad eating habits…
Then, breaking the IP rights and denying drugs companies to recoup their investments and make profit (to give to shareholders yes, but also to finance new investments and the creation of new drugs) could lead to a very simple fact : they could stop selling their products in Thailand, which could lead to further step back as for public health.
And then, again we should point out the hypocrisy of the thai authorities. The Health Minister said a few month ago that the compulsory license of the first 3 drugs would save 1.8 billions THB. 50 millions USD.
Less than the price of new Boeing 737-800 that the Palace received in april. And much less than the 143 billions for the 2008 military budget (increase of 24%)…
So could we reformulate the problem : Is Thailand willing or not to spend 1.8 billions THB in order to offer proper medical treatments to its people ?
Obviously, the answer is no.
It’s more efficient (even from a political point of view) to attack the foreign drugs companies…
Anyway, the issue is complex.
The Health Minister said that the next target could be… drugs against cancer.
“We have to wait for the right time,” Mongkol said, responding to questions about when the ministry would enforce compulsory licenses for the cancer medicines.
However, he gave an assurance that he would do so before the government’s term ends. “
Why bother to stop there ? I mean, why not issuing compulsory licenses for all the drugs ? As you can see, such a path is rocky, and foreign investors are certainly going to follow this issue… Closely.