Compulsory Licensing Controversy in Thailand

Protesters at Abbott's 2007 Annual Meeting.Sean Flynn, Appeal of Thailand Commission Order on Abbott's Refusal to Sell AIDS Medications in Thailand. (January 17, 2008).



Between November 2006 and January 2007, Thailand's Ministry of Health granted licenses for patents on two antiretroviral drugs (efavirenz and lopinavir+ritonavir) and clopidogrel, a heart medication sold by Bristol Myers Squibb. The licenses were issued for government use, after years of prior negotiation with the patent holders, and include a 0.5% royalty rate.

Abbott responded to the compulsory license for lopinavir+ritonavir, which it sells under the brand name Kaletra, by announcing it would no longer register new drugs for sale in Thailand. Drugs that would not be registered in Thailand include a new version of Kaletra that does not need refrigeration, which is especially important in tropical climates. Soon after, Thai treatment activists filed a compliant with the Competition Commission, alleging that Abbott’s withholding of its products violates Thailand’s Competition Act.  The law prohibits dominant companies doing commerce in the country from withholding provision of products without adequate pro-competitive justification.

In April 2007, the US Trade Representative places Thailand on its 301 Priority Watch List, citing " further indications of a weakening of respect for patents, as the Thai Government announced decisions to issue compulsory licenses for several patented pharmaceutical products."

In February 2008, the new Thai Minister of Public Health Chaiya Sasomsab announced that he was reviewing the compulsory licenses that have been issued, as well as four more proposed compulsory licenses for cancer medications. This happened amid growing pressure against Thailand from the US pharmaceutical industry, which let it be known it is lobbying the US government to effectively raise tariffs on Thailand's exports by removing the nation's GSP benefits. In March the Minister recommended that the compulsory licenses remain in place, but the licenses could still be revoked by the Minister of Commerce.

PIJIP Documents

U.S. Government Documents

Thai Government Documents

European Commission Documents

Civil Society Documents

World Health Organization Documents

Pharmaceutical Industry Documents