Drug licences all for the poor, says Thai minister
The Thai minister of public health, Mongkol Na Songkhla, says the government's decision to issue compulsory licences on patented drugs was aimed solely at helping poor people, and that the country has borne "unfair" criticism.
In an interview in the journal Science (8 June), Mongkol explains that Thailand has limited itself to only issuing compulsory licences for five drugs at a time. This will minimise interference into research and development, innovation and investment, and still address the needs of the country's poor, he says.
He concedes that compulsory licensing was in part a tactic to encourage negotiation with drug companies. "They never wanted to sit down and talk with our committee. And right now it is easier for us to invite them."
Mongkol also thinks Thailand carried out their recent compulsory licensing too transparently, and that other countries simply go ahead with compulsory licensing without announcing their intentions.
He is still waiting to hear whether Abbott Laboratories — the makers of two AIDS drugs Thailand has issued compulsory licences for — will agree to a proposal to sell seven drugs at a lower price for non-commercial use.