Swedish Politician Defends Thailand in Medicine Licensing Debate

Carl Schlyter, Swedish member of the European Parliament, has defended Thailand’s right to use compulsory licensing on several patented medicines to ensure that they are made available at more affordable prices than they would otherwise be.
Carl schlyter’s remarks comes as Peter Mandelson, the European commissioner for trade, has critiziced Thailand for enforcing the decision to produce cheap generic drugs based on the more expensive, patented original medicines for the treatment of people suffering from Aids and certain heart diseases.
“The Commission fails to understand the purpose of the compulsory licensing system,” Carl Schlyter says, adding that the executive “should be happy” that Thailand has been making use of the flexibilities applying to intellectual property rules.
Peter Mandelson has called on Thailand to revise its efforts to provide cheap medicines to people with AIDS over concerns that the country could be undermining global rules on intellectual property.
Mandelson has expressed concern that Bangkok “may be taking a new approach to access to medicines” by stating that if drug companies wish to do business in Thailand, they should offer their drugs for no more than 5 percent above the cost of generic versions of the products in question.
“This approach would be detrimental to the patent system and so to innovation and the development of new medicines,” Peter Mandelson said. “It risks forcing more drug companies to abandon their patents and could lead to the isolation of Thailand from the global biotechnology investment community.”
Carl Schlyter argued that the European Commissioner has been trying to ensure that compulsory licenses are only used by countries classified as ‘least developed’ by the United Nations, rather than by any poor and middle-income country facing serious health problems. Thailand has an estimated 600,000 people who are HIV positive and has recorded some 300,000 deaths from AIDS.
The World Bank has predicted that the Thai government’s resort to compulsory licenses would reduce the cost of second-line drugs by 90 percent, saving the country 3.2 billion dollars over 20 years.

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