Saturday, August 16, 2008

Chaiya faces legal action by activists


Chaiya faces legal action by activists


Health and consumer activists are set to take legal action against Commerce Minister Chaiya Sasomsab and related trade authorities for issuing an order deemed to protect a pharma giant but block Thai people's access to medicines. The Network of Thai People Living with HIV/Aids, the Aids Access Foundation and the Foundation for Consumers will lodge a complaint with the Administrative Court against the commerce minister, the Internal Trade Department chief and the panel on trade competition on Monday.

They will ask the court to determine if the panel on trade competition's recent resolution violated the public's rights to access affordable life-saving drugs.

The controversial resolution involves Abbott Laboratories, a US-based pharmaceutical company, which last year cancelled registration of the heat-stable version of an anti-retroviral drug with the trade name Aluvia and several other drug regimens with the Food and Drug Administration for sale in Thailand.

The move was in response to the coup-installed government's decision to announce a policy of overriding patents of three Aids and heart drugs last January.

Activists alleged that the move is a violation of sections 25 and 28 of the Trade Competition Act concerning market dominance and parent companies' influence on subsidiaries.

But the panel ruled that Abbott's action was legitimate.

''We believe that the trade competition panel's order does not protect Thai citizens rights to medical access at all. That's why we have to seek court justice,'' said Nimit Tienudom, chairman of the Aids Access Foundation.

The group earlier this year petitioned the panel on trade competition to review the resolution, but the panel, chaired by Mr Chaiya, stood by its decision.

Internal Trade Department chief Yanyong Phuangrach said that the panel's ruling was based on the Trade Competition Act and that it was fair and final. Those who disagreed with the panel's decision could take the case to the Administrative Court, he said.

He said the market value of local pharmaceutical products came to about 74 billion baht whereas Aids drugs and second-line anti-retroviral treatment was worth only 2.7 billion and 1.3 billion baht, respectively.

The market value of Aluvia alone was considered too small to result in market dominance as claimed by consumer and health advocates, he said.

Meanwhile, representatives from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PReMA) yesterday met Public Health Minister Chavarat Charnveerakul to discuss the government's compulsory licensing (CL) policy.

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