Head of Thailand's Food and Drug Administration resigns after one week
The Associated Press
Monday, March 3, 2008
BANGKOK, Thailand: The recently appointed head of Thailand's Food and Drug Administration resigned Monday amid controversy over the new government's plan to review a policy of overriding patents on several expensive cancer-fighting drugs.
Chatree said he decided to resign because he felt "uncomfortable with the politics," explaining that critics had brought up old, unproven allegations linking him to corruption in a computer procurement project in 2003. He called the allegations "politically motivated and groundless," without elaborating.
Chatree's predecessor, Siriwat Thiptharadon, was transferred to an inactive post last Tuesday by the new government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Siriwat called his transfer unfair, charging it was because he supported compulsory licensing of drug patents.
Compulsory licensing is intended to make some drugs more affordable by taking away the patent holder's ability to control the drug's price, a benefit of being a drug's exclusive supplier. International trade rules allow a government to issue a compulsory license to manufacture a generic version of a drug only in case of a national public health emergency.
[APPARENTLY UNDER THAI LAW, AS CALLED FOR BY HEALTH ACTIVISTS WHO LOBBIED TO REMOVE THE NEW FDA ADMINISTRATOR, DRUG INNOVATORS THAT DARE TO EXERCISE THEIR PATENT RIGHTS IN THAILAND ARE AUTOMATICALLY DEEMED ILLEGAL MONOPOLISTS. IN OTHER WORDS, A PATENT HOLDER'S EXERCISE OF THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO SELL, DISTRIBUTE AND IMPORT A NEWLY PATENTED DRUG THAT HAS NO COMPETITOR IN THE MARKETPLACE, PROVIDES AMPLE BASIS FOR THE THAI GOVERNMENT TO DECLARE THAT A 'PUBLIC INTEREST' HAS BEEN VIOLATED. CONSEQUENTLY, THE THAI GOVERNMENT, PROMPTED BY ACTIVISTS BELIEVES IT IS PERMITTED TO 'TAKE' IT AWAY FROM THE PATENT OWNER VIA ISSUANCE OF A COMPULSORY LICENSE !!]
Siriwat was the architect of the government's policy leading to the issuing of compulsory licenses on Jan. 4 for four cancer-fighting drugs.
In the past two years, the Thai government has also issued compulsory licenses for several drugs used to treat AIDS and heart disease, drawing criticism from companies holding patents on the drugs.
The drug companies dispute whether the circumstances in Thailand qualify for such licenses.
Newly appointed Public Health Minister Chaiya Sasomsup said Monday the ministry will review the licensing policy on the cancer-fighting drugs, while ensuring patients have affordable access to the medicines.
[AT WHOSE COST, THAT OF THE DRUG COMPANIES?? ARE PATENT HOLDERS, AS A MATTER OF INTERNATIONAL POLICY, NOW RESPONSIBLE FOR FUNDING GOVERNMENTS' PUBLIC HEALTH CARE PROMISES??? WHY DOESN'T THE GOVERNMENT JUST TAKE OVER THE PHARMACEUTICAL BUSINESS & ELIMINATE FREE ENTERPRISE ALTOGETHER??]
He said that if negotiations fail to get drug companies to lower their prices, compulsory licensing would be maintained.
Chaiya earlier said the government planned to review the drug licensing policy because U.S. drug manufacturers might ask Washington to apply trade sanctions against Thailand.
The four drugs issued compulsory licenses on Jan. 4 are Novartis' Imatinib and Letrozole, Sanofi-Aventis' Docetaxel, and Roche's Erlotinib.
Novartis AG and Roche Holding AG are Swiss, and Sanofi-Aventis SA is French.