Compulsory licences : western companies fight back

The Council of State will today consider the legitimacy of the compulsory licensing (CL) policy on cancer drugs implemented by the Public Health Ministry.

The Commerce Ministry asked the government’s legal advisory body to consider the policy’s legality in June after the France-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi Aventis sent a letter to the chief of the Intellectual Property (IP) Department, Puangrat Asavapisit, asking for a review of the CL policy. (Bangkok Post)

My “old” readers probably know what my position on this issue is : compulsory licences for medecines were decided by the Junta. A decision based on avarice and greed. And the CLs break the WTO regulations, the very same regulations that supporters of CLs claim to respect.

Each member has the right to determine what constitutes a national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency, it being understood that public health crises, including those relating to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics, can represent a national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency. (WTO, Declaration on the TRIPS agreement and public health)

My position is very simple :

-there is no link between Plavix (covered by a CL) and “national health emergency”, public health crise” and “extreme urgency” !

Plavix is used to prevent blood clots after a recent heart attack or stroke…

Thailand is not Africa, a continent with real health emergencies and zero financial means. Thailand has the financial means, and the medical infrastructure, to provide good healthcare and modern drugs to its population.
They just don’t want to pay for it ! Of course.

-The thai authorities (Junta first, and now the elected gvt) show their duplicity by increasing the military budget since 2 years on massive scale (read here and here), when meanwhile saying that they need CL because they can’t afford the medecines…

For that specific matter, read my article : “% of GPD for health : Thailand at the same level than… North Korea

In january, the Junta decided to issue CLs for a second batch of medecines :

Breast cancer drug Letrozole and the leukaemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumour drug Imatinib, both produced by Novartis; and lung cancer drug Erlotinib, made by Roche, and breast cancer drug Docetaxel (made by the french company Sanofi-Aventis).

Again… can someone explain what is the link between national health emergency, extreme emergency and breast cancer, gastrointestinal stromal tumour, and lung cancer ?

As I wrote before, with such logic all the countries in the world should issue CLs for all the medecines.

Cold, gastroenteritis, headaches, STDs, you name it ! Free ! 😉 It’s absurd.

And this shows clearly that the thai policy is a dead-end. And a dangerous one.

New efficient drugs can only be discovered, designed thanks to research.

Research is very expensive and needs a lot of capital.

And capital is not motivated by the love of humanity, but by profit. I know it’s very bad, I will probably go to hell to say such thing… but that’s the reality.

It’s the worst system, except for all the other systems, to paraphrase Churchill.

So, it’s time for the US and european companies to fight the dangerous CLs policy intiated by the Junta in Thailand, a bunch of lunatics in uniform who prefer to buy swedish jet fighters (1 billion USD !) rather than to pay for medecines for the people.

7 Responses to “Compulsory licences : western companies fight back”

  1. 1 Fonzi 10 September 2008 at 3:37 pm

    I agree with you.

    Thailand wants to steal these drugs for various reasons:

    1. Everybody hates the pharmaceutical companies, so it is hard to defend them.

    2. Thailand doesn’t want to pay for the drugs, because it is a good chunk of their national health care expenditures. Why pay when you can steal? Why pay full price for a Hollywood movie DVD when you can pay for the copy on the street for a 100 baht?

    3. The state pharmaceutical company wants to reverse engineer the drugs and sell them in other markets for a profit.

    There is no national health emergency in Thailand and Thailand is totally capable of paying for the drugs or at least in a position to get bulk discounts. Thailand isn’t a sub-Saharan African country, though it is acting like one more and more, which is a shame.

  2. 2 ThaiCrisis 10 September 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Yep. The more I write about this issue, the more I feel really angry.

    The whole story should be a national embarrassement, and an international shame for Thailand.

    But no ! They are proud of it !

    But like you said, many people hate pharmaceutical companies… so it’s easy and sweet as honey.

    This is why it’s urgent to defend those companies.

    First to have the pleasure to disagree with the stupid masses. 😉
    Then, and more seriously, to save the future if I may say.

    This is why I wrote “dangerous dead-end”… If businesses can’t have anymore return on investment (ROI, another bad word, I know)… then you can be sure that capital will simply vanish, and fly away and go somewhere else.

    Why not on commodities, food and energy for instance (like we saw the last few months…). Then the poor people would really suffer.

    And the research will STOP.

    Even the thais, with their experience, should understand this basic rule and principle : NO MONEY, NO HONEY. 😉

    Anyway, I’m astonished by the silence of european and US authorities. They are probably more concerned by the financial crisis, rather than to teach good manners to Thailand and to defend their industries…

    Improvement of life = tons of research
    research = tons of money
    money = protection the fxxxx IP rights !

    I mean the equation is so fxxx simple !

    With OF COURSE, the exceptions stated in TRIPS agreement (WTO) : real health crisis.

    I think we all could agree on this last point.

  3. 3 fall 11 September 2008 at 1:47 pm

    My guess is the word “Protection of IP rights” does not hold a meaning to this or any Thai government. Name one “IP right” that Thai have and result from tons of research. You cant describe a taste of chocolate to those who have never eaten…

  4. 4 loris 11 September 2008 at 10:38 pm

    You said it right ‘ a bunch of lunatics in uniform’ ( by the way, two of them are still runnnig around at the moment,one Gen.Anopong who is rather useless, anyway..) they have money for guns but not for their people. What do they care anyway about their people,as long as they have their toys to play with, and what for ? Are they being threatened by their neighbours? They just don’t want to pay that’s all.They want it free, cheaper.

  5. 5 Bedwyr 12 September 2008 at 1:46 am

    I don’t know why any of this is surprising, it is merely the Thais enacting their well-known and beloved policy of:

    ‘Take everything from the Westand give nothing back.’

    This, combined with their well-known lack of ethics and any kind of morality, fully explains their desire to thieve whatever they think they can get away with.

    The problem is that they have gotten away with it so many times, they think there are no consequences. Sooner or later, this arrogance will attract a well-deserved kick in the ass. Then of course, the feckless Thais will cry and whine about their ‘bad luck’ and poverty.

    However, the ‘bad luck’ is actually ‘consequences’, and the ‘poverty’ is more properly called feudal exploitation. By other Thais.

    Personally, I think that corruption, exploitation, and the ‘born to rule’ kleptocracy are so embedded in Thailand that a revolution is pretty much inevitable. Hope I am wrong but geo-politically, it must be obvious to all that China would not be at all disappointed to see that happen.


  6. 6 James 26 September 2008 at 8:34 pm

    FYI – compulsory licensing does not provide country’s with FREE drugs. Even in cases of national emergencies, adequate remuneration is required once the patent is broken. The real debate is whether the pharmaceutical companies will be adequately compensated in this situation.

    On the other hand, have the companies already recouped their costs? Are they raking in windfall profits? I have not been able to locate any statistics or evidence of losses so far.


  7. 7 ThaiCrisis 26 September 2008 at 9:38 pm

    From a logical point of view, “compensation fees” are of course… much lower than the original price. Otherwise, CL would not really make sense, right ?

    Therefore “adequally compensated” is an oxymoron.

    The “adequate compensation” is the original price. Any lower figures = losses.

    Furthermore, let’s talk about those “compensation fees”… It’s necessary to judge your point of view.

    2 examples (source) :

    -Indonesia, 2004, 2 Antiretroviral Drugs : “The Decree also set the “compensation fee” at 0.5% of the net selling value of the ARVs concerned to the patent holder

    -Malaysia, 2003, Antiretroviral Drugs too : “Taking into account existing state practices and the UNDP Human Development Report 2001 recommendation, the MOH proposed to the patent holders a remuneration level of 4% of the value of stocks actually delivered.

    So… 0,5 % or 4 % or even 5 %… if you call that an “adequate compensation”… and if you still believe that those levels allow “windfall profits”…

    And in those cases we are talking about real health emergency (HIV).

    I don’t even dare to imagine the compensation fee Thailand is willing to offer for a blood clotting agent… 😉

    Last but not least, your moral point of view about acceptable level of profits is I think irrelevant in the context of a country that increase its military budget…

    So let’s be serious. Thailand is not Africa.

    You can afford to buy modern swedish jetfigthers ? And then after you come to cry to mama because anti- blood clotting medicine are “too expensive” ? !

    Decency, please. We need a little bit of decency in this controversy.

    It’s too easy to push on drug companies’s shoulders the effects of local deficiencies, scandalous and corrupted politics.

    This is precisely the point that all the sweet ONG (“free drugs for everybody”) are missing.

    And in Thailand’s case, this point breaks all the legitimacy of their argument.

    Moral can’t be cut into slices : it’s 100 % or nothing.

    i’m still waiting for the ONGs to organize protests in Thailand against :
    increase of military budget
    -the tax cuts on diesel
    -the prices control policy on such vital good as… soft drinks
    -the tax cuts for real estate, insurance premiums (and many other goodies for rich people)

    Then I could, perhaps, reconsider my position about compulsory licences in Thailand… (I repeat Thailand… Because I agree with CL for Africa and/or for real health crisis.).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Thailand Crisis

Coup, Economic slowdown, Terror In the South... The situation is worsening in Thailand. Bumpy road like often before.

But this time, it's different.

The key to understand the present turmoil is the inevitable... succession of King Bhumibol.

%d bloggers like this: