Thai, U.S. Trade Agreement Will Not Affect Production of Generic Antiretrovirals, U.S. Official Says
Ongoing negotiations between Thailand and the United States concerning a bilateral free trade agreement will not prevent Thai drug makers from producing generic copies of patented antiretroviral drugs, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said on Wednesday, Reuters reports. "In all our free trade agreements, we made very clear that the agreement to which the Untied States joined -- and in fact I helped put together -- dealing with access to medicines, dealing with HIV/AIDS, would not be affected at all by any aspect of this agreement," Zoellick said at a press conference after meeting with Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Souphamongkorn at the start of a six-country tour of Southeast Asia (Reuters, 5/4). Some HIV/AIDS advocates are worried that the agreement with the United States could force Thailand's pharmaceutical industry to stop producing less-expensive generic versions of antiretrovirals, thereby increasing the cost of treatment for HIV/AIDS patients (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/4). A monthly regimen of generic antiretrovirals in Thailand currently costs about $30 per person, compared with $250 per patient for patented drugs (Reuters, 5/4). Last month, protestors demonstrated outside of the U.S. embassy in Bangkok and sent a letter to Thailand's chief negotiator, Nitya Pibulsonggram, asking that any measures that could affect generic antiretroviral drugs be left out of the talks. Nitya assured opponents of the trade talks that no agreements had been finalized. In November 2004, the Thai government told HIV/AIDS patients and advocates in the country that the free trade agreement negotiations would not compromise future access to inexpensive antiretroviral drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/4). Although Thai and U.S. negotiators have held three rounds of talks concerning free trade agreements, no details of the discussions have been released, Reuters reports (Reuters, 5/4).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.