Its all about drawing attention to free trade talks between the two countries that Oxfam says threaten HIV treatment by toughening intellectual property protection for drugs made by big pharmaceutical firms.
If Thailand is to scale up its AIDS treatment programme, it must be allowed access to cheap generic versions of patented drugs in the future, otherwise one of the worlds success stories will fail, says Oxfam Health Policy Advisor Mohga Kamal Smith.
Thai PM Thaksin has pledged to leave HIV drugs out of FTA negotiations, but Oxfam and other NGOs are sceptical. Even if he does, Mohga says, would the exemption apply to drugs used for treating AIDS-related conditions? Her guess: Not likely.
Free Trade Agreement impact on Thai treatment programme
by Mohga Kamal Smith, UK
People's lives before commercial interest:
The U.S. -- Thailand FTA threatens HIV treatment
Bangkok, Thailand : The US is pressuring Thailand to sign away citizens rights to life-saving medicines in the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) currently under negotiation, said international agency Oxfam today.
In a report released on the eve of the XV International AIDS conference in Bangkok, Oxfam warns that US demands for the US-Thai FTA to toughen existing intellectual property protection for drugs produced by giant pharmaceutical companies will hamper Thailand's successful HIV/AIDS treatment programme and undermine future access to affordable medicines
In Thailand, there are 29,000 new infections of HIV/AIDS each year, of which approximately 4,200 are children. Access to affordable medicines is a critical component of the governments strategy to scale up the current treatment programme and prevent the spread of the epidemic.
If Thailand is to scale up its AIDS treatment programme, it must be allowed access to inexpensive generic versions of patented drugs in the future, otherwise one of the worlds success stories will fail. said Dr. Mohga Kamal Smith, Oxfams Health Policy Advisor.
Thailand is currently implementing a treatment programme based on a generic fixed dose combination recommended by the WHO. This three-in-one tablet is around 10 times cheaper than the patented brand name drugs, and enhances patients compliance by decreasing the number of pills that need to be taken to two a day.
However, Thailand also urgently needs access to generic versions of other patented medicines that are vital for people who develop side effects or resistance to currently available drugs. For example, Efavirenz, a much needed antiretroviral drug made by Merck, is too expensive because it is under patent. Also essential is access to drugs to treat life-threatening opportunistic infections, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), which can cause blindness and death. This can be treated by GSK's ganciclovir, but because this drug is patented, it is too expensive to be included in the government's programme.
The patent rules in the proposed US-Thai FTA, if based on recent US FTAs with other developing countries, will close down the option of accessing such cheap generic medicines in the future.
The US should not exploit Thailand's economic dependence on export to the American market to impose stricter patent provisions that serve primarily the interests of US corporations and go far beyond the world standards set by the WTO, Dr. Kamal Smith added.
Without generic versions the cost of including necessary patented medicines could double or even triple the current cost of the Thai treatment programme, resulting in fewer people having access to life saving drugs
Oxfam urges the USA to refrain from pressurising Thailand to implement TRIPS-plus measures in the FTA, and instead give its maximum support to the expansion of the Thai AIDS programme, said Ashvin Dayal, Oxfam East Asia Regional Director.
For Further Information or to arrange an interview please call
Mona Laczo +66 (0) 1 814 7756 or Dr. Mohga Kamal Smith
at + 44 (0) 7776255884 or + 66 (0)1 935 3196
The copy of Oxfam's paper titled Free Trade Agreement between the USA and Thailand Threatens Access to HIV/AIDS Treatments visit our website at www.oxfaminternational.org