Governments Urged To Use Compulsory Licences To Boost Drug Access 23/11/2007 by Sinfah Tunsarawuth for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)By Sinfah Tunsarawuth for Intellectual Property Watch BANGKOK – Thai and foreign public health campaigners on Friday urged governments to exercise their right over patent owners to provide access to cheaper essential medicines for the poor. They also called for a new global mechanism to encourage “humanitarian research” in which research and development of drugs should be driven by the needs of the public rather than by market forces. “We confirm that compulsory licensing of patents is a legitimate, important and effective tool to protect consumer and public interests,” the campaigners said in a 23 November joint statement at the end of a three-day meeting in Bangkok on how countries could encourage innovation while making new drugs accessible to the underprivileged in the society. “Thus every country should have the rights to systematically and routinely use compulsory licensing and other means under TRIPS flexibility similarly to wealthy countries,” the statement continued. TRIPS refers to the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The meeting was jointly sponsored by UNAIDS, World Health Organization, Oxfam, Medecins Sans Frontieres and two major Thai agencies working on health issues. No multinational pharmaceutical companies were represented in the meeting. However, coinciding with the meeting, companies, through their offices in Thailand, ran full-paged advertisements in Thai and English language dailies defending their position in support of investments in drug research. “New drug discoveries help doctors save lives,” said the banner headlines in the Bangkok Post newspaper. Participants – who were government officials, health campaigners and representatives of patient networks – praised the Thai government for its imposition in the past year of compulsory licences on two patented anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs for HIV/AIDS patients and another anti-coagulant for treating heart disease. Carlos Passarelli, who works at the Ministry of Health in Brazil, said the Thai case inspired the Brazilian government to resort to compulsory licensing on efavirenz, an antiretroviral drug, in May 2007. Indonesia, another country which imposed compulsory licensing on ARVs before Thailand, also said the Thai action has a greater impact on the drug patent owners as Thailand has a larger population affected with HIV/AIDS, and that has set a precedent for Indonesia on how to deal with the multinational drug companies. “We recognised and applauded Thailand’s leadership in the use of compulsory licensing to overcome legal monopolies,” said the meeting statement. “Thailand’s continued leadership on compulsory licensing is important, but so too will be the actions of other countries.” Apart from the three drugs, the Thai government has singled out four more medicines for treating various kinds of cancer for possible issuance of compulsory licences. Thai officials have been negotiating with the patent owners of these drugs and some of these companies showed greater leniency in the latest round of talks. Participants at the meeting also said current drug research and development mainly responded to the needs of the rich in developed countries, which are the key market of multinational drug companies, while neglecting diseases in developing countries. “Only 10 percent of the total global investment in pharmaceutical research was directed towards neglected diseases affecting 90 percent of world’s population,” said Jakkrit Kuanpoth, who teaches law at the University of Wollongong in Australia. Jakkrit, however, did not believe that R&D for drugs needed in developing countries should be a matter of philanthropy as developed nations did not have the moral obligation to do so. James Love of Knowledge Ecology International said drug prices should not be linked to the cost of their research. He said there were proposals to award prizes to drug developers related to impact on health care. The meeting statement then called for a new global treaty on medical R&D that does not force countries to embrace monopolies and high drug prices to finance medical innovation. The new system, the statement said, should encourage R&D that addresses specific health problems of developing countries. The participants also pledged to work together further to share experiences on the use of compulsory licensing and how to make essential drugs more available to the poor. They ended with asking Indonesia to host the next meeting to be held next year. Sinfah Tunsarawuth may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related "Governments Urged To Use Compulsory Licences To Boost Drug Access" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.