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Drug company Abbott Laboratories has backed Thailand into a corner over the pricing of an HIV/AIDS drug, argue Paul Cawthorne and colleagues in this Lancet Infectious Diseases editorial.

Abbott, say the authors, ignored requests to make a newer version of the second-line drug lopinavir-ritonavir available and affordable in Thailand, despite the drug's advantages for tropical countries — no need for refrigeration, no food restrictions and a lower pill requirement.

At US$2,200 per patient annually, the drug has had to be rationed in Thailand — leaving 90 per cent of people who need it without access.

Thailand's decision to issue a compulsory licence for lopinavir-ritonavir was necessary to provide the best possible care for its people, argue Cawthorne and colleagues. Indeed, Thailand's actions fully comply with international intellectual property law.

Developing countries should be able to take action if companies refuse to make essential drugs available at affordable prices.

The fact that Abbott is now withholding new drugs from the Thai market demonstrates a total disregard for public health in developing countries, say the authors.

Link to full article The Lancet Infectious Diseases*

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