Thailand approves compulsory licenses for generic versions of Plavix, Kaletra

Thailand's health ministry on Monday approved compulsory licenses for generic versions of sanofi-aventis' and Bristol-Myers Squibb's antithrombotic agent Plavix (clopidogrel), and Abbott's HIV drug, Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir). The government indicated it approved the licenses because it cannot afford to cover the cost of the branded drugs.

Under World Trade Organization rules, governments are permitted to licence the sale or production of branded drugs without the patent-holder's permission under certain conditions. Nonetheless, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations recommended that Thailand try to negotiate with drugmakers for lower prices, stating that compulsory licenses "can be a route to commercial abuse and can put patients at risk," Bloomberg reports. Thailand's Public Health Minister, Mongkol Na Songkhla, remarked that the country would be willing to negotiate with drugmakers for lower-priced branded versions of their medicines.

Thawat Suntrajarn, head of Thailand's health ministry's disease control department, commented that generic versions of the drugs would initially be imported from India, but would eventually be manufactured by Thailand's state-owned drugmaker, as reported in the Bangkok Post. Generic versions of Plavix are expected to be about one-tenth the cost of the branded version, while generic Kaletra will cost approximately half of the price of the branded drug.

Last week, Thailand indicated its intention to issue compulsory licenses for two drugs, and the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers Association of Thailand suggested that drugmakers may reduce spending in the country if the government followed through on its plan.

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