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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 12224

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Jittapong K, Cropley E.
Thailand, big pharma wrangle over cancer drugs
Reuters 2007 Dec 18

Full text:

Thailand is still talking to three major drug firms about cutting the price of certain cancer drugs but might make the medicines itself if it does not receive adequate discounts, a top health official said on Tuesday.

“It will depend on negotiations with drug manufacturers,” Siriwat Thiptharadol, secretary general of the Food and Drug Administration, told Reuters.

The Bangkok Post reported that talks about requested price cuts for breast and lung cancer drugs Docetaxel, produced by Sanofi-Aventis, Roche’s Erlotinib and Novartis’s Letrozole had broken down.

Docetaxel is also known as Taxotere, Erlotinib as Tarceva and Letrozole as Femara.

The newspaper said this made “inevitable” the imposition of a “compulsory licence” (CL), under which Thailand would be able to make the drugs itself without worrying about its World Trade Organization patent obligations.

However, Siriwat said the talks were still moving along.

“If they agree to cut the prices further to an affordable level, I think the Health Minister will not need to implement CL,” Siriwat said.

Health Minister Mongkol na Songkhla, who has already overridden patents on two AIDS drugs and a heart medicine, did not answer his mobile phone.

Novartis’ Thailand manager, Sirilak Suteekul, described talks about accessibility to Letrozole in Thailand, where there an estimated 2,000 potential patients, as “very healthy” and nothing out of the ordinary.

“I see this as moving forward,” she said.

Representatives of the other two drug companies were not immediately available for comment.

Mongkol, appointed by the army after last year’s military coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has upset international pharmaceutical companies with a campaign to force them to give poorer countries cheaper drugs.

With a general election due on Dec. 23, his days in office are numbered and he appears to be determined to squeeze out more concessions during his final days in office.

“By the end of this month, I will summarise the result of the talks to the Health Minister for consideration,” Siriwat said, adding that the companies were still preparing to submit their final price proposals.

“I think the issue should be completed within this government before the election.”


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