BANGKOK, Thailand Thai health officials said Tuesday, April 10, that the government would consider an offer by U.S. drug maker Abbott Laboratories to supply Thailand and other countries with its AIDS-fighting drugs at a discounted price.
Abbott earlier Tuesday announced that after consulting with the U.N.’s World Health Organization, it had decided to offer its drug Kaletra, also marketed under the name Aluvia, at a reduced price in the developing world.
“The company today offered to lower its price for its AIDS drug Kaletra from [$181] per patient per month to [$107] per patient per month which could end up being cheaper than its generic version,” Dr. Siriwat Tiptaradol, secretary-general of Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration, was quoted saying in a news release from his agency.
The offer appeared to be a breakthrough in ending a dispute between Thailand and Abbott over the high price of Kaletra, which comprises the pharmaceutical ingredients lopinavir and ritonavir.
Thailand earlier this year announced it was breaking the patent on Kaletra so it could provide cheaper generic versions of the drug to those in need.
Abbott responded by declaring it would not introduce any new drugs in Thailand because it failed to honor its intellectual property rights. An Abbott spokeswoman, Melissa Brotz, said Tuesday that policy has not changed.
Thailand’s position drew much criticism from the local and foreign business community, while Abbott’s action drew a firestorm of protest from health activists.
Siriwat said that the FDA will forward the Illinois-based company’s offer to the Public Health Ministry for further deliberation.
The ministry in January issued so-called “compulsory licenses” allowing the use of much cheaper generic versions of Kaletra, as well as the blood thinner Plavix, marketed by France’s Sanofi-Aventis SA and U.S. drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
According to World Trade Organization agreements on intellectual property, a government may issue a compulsory license in case of a national public health emergency. Such action has been taken by several countries, most notably Brazil and India, especially for AIDS medicines.
A news release from Abbott said the company will offer its AIDS drugs to NGOs and governments of more than 40 low and low-middle income countries at a price of $1,000 per patient per year.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 13, 2007