Statement from the President of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers’ Association of Thailand (PReMA)

Bangkok (14 February 2007) – The Ministry of Public Health has announced its intention to initiate action that will break the patents of fourteen medicines, including three medicines for which the Ministry has already announced compulsory licenses, used in the treatment of AIDS, antibiotics, cancer, heart and cardiovascular diseases, and neuropathy. The ministry’s action has global implication for the pharmaceutical industry.

This action is completely unprecedented anywhere in the world.

We are gravely concerned for Thailand's reputation as a country that respects the rule of law and the sanctity of private property. When governments resolve to take away the property of the private sector, they need to begin with consultation and end with the consent of the property owner.

These unilateral actions by the Ministry of Public Health contradict the reassurances of the Prime Minister to the foreign investment community, are inconsistent with the Board of Investment’s (BOI) policy to promote research & development activities in Thailand, and may shut Thailand out of one of the global economy's most important growth sectors - biotechnology and life sciences. This sector will not only drive economic development across the world, it also promises huge improvements to the quality of people's lives. The Ministry's actions risk limiting development of next-generation treatments and could lead to the proliferation of low quality medicines.

It is a major and regrettable decision.

The affected companies received no prior notice of the Ministry's intentions.

Improving the access of citizens to quality healthcare is not simply a matter of ‘making drugs cheaper’. It involves issues that are far more complex and related to the entire health system. The best way to begin to find solutions to these difficult challenges is to reject confrontation and have the private and public sectors work together collaboratively in the manner advocated by the Director-General of the World Health Organisation. PReMA members have always been open to constructive and sustainable initiatives for the betterment of people’s health.

It is clear that the Thai Government has taken a policy decision to use compulsory licenses as a tool to negotiate prices that do not recognize the costs associated with developing new and better medicines. Individual pharmaceutical companies will certainly consider the very significant risk this policy poses when deciding whether to bring their latest medicines to the Thai market. Far from providing poor patients with the best medicines, the compulsory license policy might block access to new treatments in Thailand.

Mr. Teera Chakajnarodom
President, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers’ Association of Thailand

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