May 23, 2007

By Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer
Executive director
Access to Essential Medicines Campaign
Doctors Without Borders

Letters to the Editor
Published in The Chicago Tribune

Chicago Sun Times

This is in response to "Abbott in Thailand"
(Editorial, May 10).

As a doctor, Abbott's retaliation against Thailand by withdrawing all applications to register new drugs in the country is a move of calculated cynicism that continues to shock me. Beyond that, the editorial ignores the company's hypocritical stance toward compulsory licenses.

While Abbott and its supporters have berated Thailand, the company argued in a U.S. court on public health grounds to override another company's patent in order to make and sell a hepatitis C diagnostic test.

The editorial also overestimates Abbott's past initiatives.

The company has shown little concern about making heat-stable lopinavir/ritonavir available in developing countries. In fact, its every step has been taken under pressure from clinicians, patients and governments. To this day, the company even refuses to provide any information on where it is registering the product.

Finally, the editorial relies too heavily on the tired and discredited notion that patents stimulate innovation. Study after study shows how the current system of drug development does little to promote new treatments for diseases affecting the world's poor.

Of the more than 1,500 new chemical entities marketed from 1975-2004, a scant 1 percent was for diseases that claim millions of lives each year in the developing world.

Given this record, the world's poor might be better off not if "Abbott prevails" but with a needs-based system of research and development.

Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer
Executive director
Access to Essential Medicines Campaign
Doctors Without Borders
Geneva