April 12, 2007

By David Wilson
Medical Coordinator, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontieres

New York Sun

Letters to the Editor
Published in The New York Sun

Roger Bate relies on distortions and common myths about compulsory licenses the same way the inebriated use lampposts: more for support than illumination [Oped, "Thailand's Patent Damage," April 3, 2007].

In issuing compulsory licenses, Thailand is heeding the advice of institutions like the World Bank – hardly "radical members of the antipatent movement" as Mr. Bate claims – to utilize World Trade Organization rules to produce less-expensive generic medicines in order to provide HIV/AIDS treatment to the estimated 200,000 people in the country who need it.

And in Thailand and other parts of the developing world, the next crisis in AIDS treatment is already here, with second-line anti-retroviral medicines costing between five and 22 times the amount of first-line treatments.

The WTO rules are extremely clear that countries can determine the grounds for issuing a compulsory license. It is a common misunderstanding perpetuated by opeds like Mr. Bate's that it is "patent busting."

In fact, America has issued five since June 2006 on everything from satellite TV technology to medical devices.

The choice is simple: either encourage the use of flexibilities built into international trade agreements or let millions of people die because they can not afford life-saving medicines.

For Mr. Bate, "hope remains" if "American interests stand their ground." As clinicians, my colleagues and I see hope when lives are saved because patients have access to medicines.

DAVID WILSON
Medical coordinator
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontieres
Thailand Mission, Bangkok

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