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Thailand Patent Row Gets Hot

Posted Oct 28 2008 9:56pm

The military regime that toppled Thailand’s democracy is making waves again on pharmaceutical intellectual property (see previous discussion ). Following the same format it used when deciding to issue compulsory licenses for AIDS medications, the country has established committees for compulsory licensing of cancer products. Thailand won’t name any specific products at this time, however Genentech’s Herceptin (trastuzumab) is rumored to be tops on Thailand military’s hit list. The news comes days after thousands of people gathered in Thailand to protest the military coup.

Thailand’s lobbying efforts are also paying off. The military dictatorship was able to get over 30 members of Congress to push the U.S. Trade Representative on blackballing the country onto the Priority Watch List.

AIDS activists, both in the U.S. and in Europe, have complained that the patent row is only about AIDS patients. It’s not. Thailand has stated that it sees this as a matter of public health and it will do anything to protect its citizens (short of meaningful reforms of its healthcare system and educating Thais about AIDS prevention).

A Thai representative at BIO was even more blunt. While stating that Thailand is an excellent country for investment, he could not state whether his country, “will honor ANY pharmaceutical patents.”

Abbott Laboratories’ PR mess isn’t just Abbott’s anymore. This is far bigger than Abbott and it is far bigger than AIDS medications. We can all feel empathy for the AIDS patents or cancer patients or [fill in the blank] patients, but U.S. Trade Rep Sue Schwab was right to put Thailand on the Watch List for beginning a process of systematically invalidating all pharmaceutical patents.
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