The newly elected government of Thailand is continuing the previous government’s disregard for international patent law and for the health of its citizens. Now the Thai Minister of Health is proposing that the government “ignore” four cancer medicine patents, and start domestic, unlicenced production.
The military dictatorship this government replaced a few months ago filed for TRIPS exceptions on four other drugs with the World Trade Organization. A TRIPS exception means that they claim there is a necessity for the country to ignore the patents. The necessity in this case is the need for the government to make sure their cronies gets their salaries paid for off the back of patients.
This was immediately embraced by the Green Party in Europe, because it doesn’t like patents, but the story the Greens forgot to tell was the epidemic of AIDS cases in Thailand that are resistant to Level 1 AIDS medications because the medicines produced by the government do not have a high enough quality and the patients develop resistance to medicines because of that. The Level 2 medications are not a whole lot more expensive, but the Thai health care system cannot afford the cost of the complex delivery systems for Level 2 AIDS medication.
Thailand started production of generic AIDS medications under the auspices of World Health Organization in 2000, but the WHO eventually pulled the project and the funding because the Thai government factories were not able to uphold the quality of the medications. The Thai government turned down the offer from WHO to get free medication from India, because that would not make their cronies any money.
TRIPS was a method for really poor governments to meet medical needs in spite of patent protection in an emergency. The World Bank rates Thailand as a middle-income nation, which means that it belongs to the second quartile ranking of countries.
A strange thing about the TRIPS application was that it included the medication Plavix, which treats heart disease. Last time I checked, arterial plaque did not belong to the diseases that poor people suffer from, however it is very common among people in the industrialized world who can afford a high-protein, high-fat diet.