April 26, 2007

Abbot and the Slimy Politics of Drug Patents

Category: IP Law,Not Wholesome!!!,Pharma,Politics,Tech — Biella @ 3:38 pm

For those of you who like to follow cutting edge developments in the politics of intellectual property law, do not miss today’s Democracy Now program AIDS Activists Call for Global Boycott of Abbott for Withholding Drug Sales in Thailand.

It is sort of stunning in that empowering and disempowering way. The show discusses protests launched again the large pharmaceutical company Abbot who in reaction–no, make that retaliation–to Thailand’s decision to issue compulsory licenses on AIDS drugs, and import generic drugs acted in highly questionable ways:

“Abbott responded in a way that shocked many AIDS activists – the company announced it would withhold seven new drugs from sale in Thailand including a new AIDS drugs and treatments for arthritis and high blood pressure.”

It is great to see countries use the very slim rights granted to them by organizations like the WTO but in order for the rights to have any punch, these countries *must* be given the space to make these decisions without the deep intimation and that is exactly what Abbot is up to.

To learn more, read the transcript, listen to the show. And if you want to go on, I have pasted the “favorite” part of the show:

Thursday, April 26th, 2007
AIDS Activists Call for Global Boycott of Abbott for Withholding Drug Sales in Thailand


AMY GOODMAN: We invited Abbott Laboratories to join us on the program; they declined our offer. But the Abbott spokesperson Jennifer Smoter issued the following comment: she said that Abbott’s Liponavir/Ritonavir is priced lower than any generic in the world, including Thailand. She said itís also the only version thatís proven quality via WHO pre-certification. There are no generics with this standing. She said the compulsory license action and subsequent statements by the Thai Minister of Health show they have chosen to provide generics to Thai patients with no intent to purchase the medicine. She says, why does anyone care if Abbott resubmits the application? And she says if the activists’ intent is protecting patients, when today the Thai government can have the lowest price for the highest quality new Liponavir/Ritonavir tablets, why are activists protesting Abbott?

JON UNGPHAKORN: Can I comment on that?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, go ahead.

JON UNGPHAKORN: Thatís completely misleading. Thailand has bought at least 18,000 bottles of Kaletra, which is not the heat-stable — itís the soft-gel form of Liponavir and Ritonavir — and has spent a lot of money on it. The compulsory license is to allow Thailand now to get it at a much cheaper price. And Abbott was selling it at well over $2,000 US dollars per patient per year, prior to the compulsory license. Itís only after Thailand issued the compulsory license that Abbott has brought down the price to $1,000 for middle-income countries and $500 for low-income countries. The generics now are for — companies are offering it to Thailand for $600 per patient per year. Itís Thailand’s compulsory license that has made Abbott have to bring down their price. Before the compulsory license, Abbott never agreed to bring the price down that far. So what she’s saying is completely misleading.

Not only that, but Abbott has actually withdrawn the registration of Aluvia, the heat-stable form, which is needed in countries with hot climates, like Thailand. So Abbott has brought down the price, but they are not allowing Thailand to get the best form of the drug, Kaletra. So what she is stating is completely misleading.


  1. Good post (caught it at Planet Debian). Relatedly, you may find
    this thread interesting.

    Comment by Julian Oliver — April 27, 2007 @ 2:57 am

  2. Thanks for posting the discussion Julian.

    I don’t think many in the world F/OSS know this but I “got into’ free software in 1997 mostly due to my political interest in drug patents. I am happy to see some political developments in the area, though of course, fraught.

    Comment by Biella — April 27, 2007 @ 5:45 am

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