Protests against Abbott laboratory in Bangkok

Published: Monday 30 April 2007

thailand's capital Bangkok witnessed protests outside the office of us multinational Abbott Laboratories on March 14, 2007. A day before, the company had withdrawn applications to register seven new formulations including a new version of the anti-hiv-drug Kaletra. It claimed the Thai government had violated international patent laws by permitting generic versions of some drugs.

More than 50 people including ngos and hiv/aids patients participated in the protest calling Abbott's move unethical and asked people to boycott drugs made by the company. Virat Poorahong, leader of Thailand's hiv/aids network said that they had long been negotiating with the company to reduce the price of their drugs, but to no avail.

The government had issued a compulsory licence to manufacture generic versions of Abbott's anti-retroviral drug Kaletra in January 2007. This was done under a provision of the global Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (trips), which allowed governments to produce and import generic versions of a drug despite existing patents, in case of a health emergency.

Thai government provides healthcare to 78 per cent of the country's population. It claimed there was a demand for cheap generic hiv/aids drugs for the 500,000 infected people in the country. A February 2007 government report estimated that at least 50,000 of hiv/aids-infected people in the country would require drugs like Kaletra. And at the current Abbott price it is unaffordable and inaccessible. Government said it had tried to negotiate with Abbott to lower the price but failed.

us has complained that the Thai government did not engage patent owners in negotiations before issuing compulsory licenses. International medical humanitarian organisation Mdecins Sans Frontires, however contended that this was not required under trips.

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