The brief ray of patent-respecting sunlight from Thailand has gone behind the old compulsory licensing cloud. A month ago, new Public Health Minister Chaiya Sasomsab said he'd review the previous minister's practice of overriding patents on some expensive cancer drugs so that Thai patients could get cheap generic versions. One possible reason: The country was getting pressure from Western trade officials. But now, Chaiya says he'll press ahead with those compulsory licenses.
Why the about-face? Thai doctors, health activists, academics, and patients pitched a fit, that's why. As soon as Chaiya announced his willingness to reconsider sidestepping the patents on those drugs--Novartis' Gleevec and Femara, Sanofi-Aventis' Taxotere, and Roche's Tarceva--various groups put on the full-court press to change his mind. The Rural Doctors Society even started circulating a petition to get Chaiya impeached, a campaign the group says it will continue.
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