Thailand: US and 'Big Pharma' orchestrate pressure

© L Hakokongas MSF provides ARV treatment and counselling to AIDS patients in Surin, Northern Thailand. Reduction in drug prices through generic production would directly benefit patients in countries like Thailand, which counts the highest number of AIDS deaths in Asia. Currently, most Thai people living with AIDS cannot afford ARV treatment, and only a small number of them receive the treatment that could both prolong their lives and improve their quality of life.
It is not infrequent that countries encounter pressure to change their intellectual property laws to include patents on pharmaceutical products prior to the TRIPS deadline. Thailand has been subjected to such trade pressure by the US government since 1985. In 1992, Thailand came under threats of trade sanctions by the US trade representative after a complaint by the US Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association. The Thai government was unable to resist and amended its patent law to include pharmaceutical product protection. Another worrying instance of external pressure on Thailand occurred in early 2000, when the Thai government attempted to issue a compulsory license for the formulation patent of didanosine (ddI), an AIDS drug. The US responded by threatening Thailand with trade sanctions. Worried about potential consequences for its economy, the Thai government ended up rejecting activists' calls for a compulsory license.