HIV network opposes licensing of Hepatitis B medicine costing 30,000 baht per pill

A network of people with HIV is urging the Thai authorities not to hand a multinational pharmaceutical company the right to monopolise a drug to combat Hepatitis B as patients may have to pay millions of baht for treatment.     

On Tuesday, 30 August 2016, representatives of the AIDs Access Foundation (AAF) and people living with HIV handed a petition to the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) of the Ministry of Commerce in Bangkok urging it not to issue a license for Sofosbuvir, a Hepatitis B treatment, to Gilead Sciences Company, an American biopharmaceutical cooperation, Thai Plus.Net reported.

The company requested a license from the Thai authorities back in 2008.

Along with the petition, the group handed a 1000-page document to the DIP, saying that Article 31 of the Intellectual Property Act allows them to oppose licensing the drug.  

They pointed out that Sofosbuvir costs about 30,000 baht per a pill and that each Hepatitis B patient in the US spends about 2.5 million baht on average for the medicine.

Nimit Thian-udom, Director of the AAF, said “this medicine should not get a license because there is no innovation with this drug. We have evidence from 13 countries that the chemical composition of the drug and the process to produce it was discovered and carried out in foreign countries long ago.”

Chalermsak Kittitrakul, an AAF campaigner, said that China and Russia had already refused to issue a license for the drug while many people in Brazil, India, and Argentina opposed licensing.

“Sofosbuvir is a very important medicine for getting rid of Hepatitis B without side-effects, but this drug is not available in the public health system in Thailand because it is very expensive,” said Chalermsak.

He added “If our petition achieves its goal, it might help the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) or other medical companies to produce the same drug 100 times cheaper, as in India which is already producing the medicine at about 100 baht per pill, whereas in the US it is sold at about 30,000 baht per pill.”

Nimit commented further that the process to oppose the licensing of certain medicines under Article 31 of the Intellectual Property Act is important for the public interest. However, in the past, people could not issue petitions to oppose the process in time because the law only allows them to do so within 90 days.

He recommended that the authorities amend the law and expand the time frame in which civil society groups could issue petitions against giving licenses to pharmaceutical companies. People will then have more time to collect comprehensive information about the issue.  

Representatives of the AIDs Access Foundation (AAF) and people living with HIV submitted a petition against a license for Sofosbuvir of Gilead Sciences Company at the Department of Intellectual Property, Bangkok, on 30 August 2016