From the islands of Indonesia, the IP Komodo prowls South East Asia and beyond looking for succulent morsels of intellectual property news with the aim of to raising awareness of South East Asia's IP issues to help people understand this diverse region's IP complexities.
Health activists in Thailand are pressuring the government to issue
further compulsory licenses for medicines.This time their focus is on hepatitis C a common corollary illness with HIV. A consortium of NGOs have
banded together to lobby for the hepatitis C medicine sofosbuvir to be
compulsorily licensed.Gilead Sciences Inc has applied for a patent for this drug in Thailand
but it is not yet granted (there is a long backlog of pharma patents in
Thailand).The NGOs argue the cost of
the US drug firm’s hepatitis C medicine is US$1,000 per pill and a full
treatment needs nearly 100 of these. Meanwhile Indian companies manufacture
them for a fraction of this cost.
In late 2014 a similar group lobbied the government to prevent the
grant of a patent to Gilead. Their strategy then was to argue that sofosbuvir's
chemical ingredients were not novel.
Explaining the importance of sofosbuvir, spokesmen have said the drug
is a radical improvement on previous treatments and can cure the disease
within three months.The Commerce
Ministry and the Food and Drug Administration are now considering the issue.
This is a classic access to health vs innovator situation.It is also part of a wider campaign against Gilead in multiple countries. NGOs are
seeking to use multiple strategies to break the innovator's patent
monopoly.Whilst one drug might not
matter, one can imagine that if they target all medicines, the likes of Gilead
will be reluctant to keep producing new products.