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Thailand Will Not Issue Compulsory Licenses for Patented Drugs

Thai Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla on Tuesday said that Thailand will not issue compulsory licenses to produce reduced-cost versions of patented drugs if pharmaceutical companies offer prices lower than those charged by generic drug makers, Reuters AlertNet reports. Mongkol's comments came one day after Abbott Laboratories and Thailand failed to reach an agreement on the price of Abbott's antiretroviral drugs Aluvia and Kaletra.

The Thai government in November 2006 and January issued compulsory licenses to produce lower-cost versions of Merck's antiretroviral Efavirenz and Kaletra, respectively. Since then, the government and drug companies have continued negotiations. Abbott earlier this week offered to sell Aluvia at a reduced price in Thailand on the condition that the country agrees not to allow generic versions of the drug into the market, Siriwat Thiptaradol, secretary-general of Thailand's Food and Drug Administration, said.

Abbott offered to sell Aluvia for about 34,000 baht, or $1,000, per person annually. Indian generic drug maker Matrix Laboratories has offered to sell a generic version of Aluvia to Thailand for 24,324 baht, or $695, per person annually. Siriwat said that the offer would be considered by Mongkol.

Under the terms of the offer, Thailand would have to agree not to seek compulsory licensing for Aluvia and the price of Aluvia could not be reduced any further. According to Reuters Alertnet, Aluvia is needed in Thailand because it is a heat-stable version of Kaletra and eliminates the need for costly refrigeration.

Mongkol said that compulsory licenses are needed "to make the drugs affordable for all, not for commercial purposes." The health ministry's decision to reject Abbott's offer was praised by some HIV/AIDS advocates. Jon Ungphakorn, secretary-general of Thailand's AIDS Access Foundation, said Abbott's offer demonstrates that the company "never treated patients as human beings
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