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Thai govt urged to remove medicines from FTA deals

Govt urged to remove medicines from FTA deals

BANGKOK, Mar 31 2005 (TNA) - Non governmental organizations (NGOs) yesterday made an impassioned plea to the government to remove the subject of medicines from negotiations on the proposed Thai-US free trade area (FTA), warning that Thai patients suffering from chronic conditions could be hit with sky-high costs for medication.

Speaking in anticipation of a protest organized against the Thai-US FTA proposal on 4-8 April, Miss Sirirat Trimankha, advisor to the Thai HIV/AIDS Network, said that NGO representatives would meet on Thursday to make a clear stance against the inclusion of medicines in the planned deal.

She warned that the issue not only affected HIV patients, but also Thais suffering from other chronic conditions, including cancer and diabetes.

NGOs fear that the FTA deal could force Thailand to halt its production of generic drugs, with the result that patients would have to purchase expensive medication imported from elsewhere.

Academics have previously warned that the proposed deal could in fact violate Thai legislation, particularly legislation relating to intellectual property rights, while noting that the liberalization of the service sector and investment could have a severe impact on the nation.

These fears were lent credence by a recent move by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) association calling on US Trade Representatives to move Thailand from a watch list to a priority watch list.

The PhRMA claimed that the move was necessitated by the fact that US pharmaceutical companies lost out on sales of drugs to Thailand throughout last year, as Thailand failed to honour US patents.

 source: TNA