May 16, 2007

Dr. Buddhima Lokuge
U.S. manager, Access to Essential Medicines Campaign

Thailand policy is legal

Re: "Thailand violates drug patents for its own profit," commentary May 5:

Philip Stevens denies reality by claiming that the recent compulsory licenses issued by Thailand will prove "devastating" to public health. A compulsory license issued for the drug efavirenz in November 2006 accomplished just the opposite. Thailand has started to import the drug at half the price offered by Merck, which potentially doubles the number of patients with access to this important AIDS medicine.

His additional false assertion that "the Thai government appears to be violating patents" in issuing a compulsory license for a drug marketed by Abbott Laboratories either arises from an incomplete understanding of patent law or purposeful distortion. The World Trade Organization is quite clear that countries can determine the grounds for issuing a compulsory license (as was the case for the five issued by the United States since July 2006).

As a doctor, I know that drug resistance inevitably develops over time, and since Thailand has one of the longest running HIV/AIDS treatment programs, it is not surprising that patients would need second-line treatment. And if people there and throughout the developing world are to get the medicines they need to survive, governments around the world have to make full use of perfectly legal flexibilities built into international trade agreements.

Dr. Buddhima Lokuge
U.S. manager
Access to Essential Medicines Campaign
Doctors Without Borders

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