Washington International Law Journal


In response to pressure from the United States, Thailand amended its Patent Act in 1992 and 1999 to provide patent protection for drugs and to limit its control on the pricing, importation, and compulsory licensing of patented drugs. These amendments and, perhaps even more importantly, the threat of U.S. trade sanctions, will probably ensure continued high prices and thus restricted access to new, patented Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome ("AIDS") drugs in Thailand. These drugs have dramatically changed the length and quality of life of patients infected with Human Immunodeficieny Virus ("HIV") in developed countries. About one million Thais are infected with HIV, but few have the resources to pay for these drugs. The U.S. pressure on Thailand to provide strong patent protection for drugs has undermined Thailand's ability to combat its AIDS epidemic. The United States should allow Thailand to manufacture less-expensive generic copies of patented AIDS drugs without imposing trade sanctions for this annulment of the intellectual property rights of drug companies. If the United States and Western Europe could prevent the import of these generic copies of AIDS drugs, which would entail only the enforcement of existing laws, it could protect the primary markets that the pharmaceutical companies were relying on when the new AIDS drugs were developed. Thus, the price of AIDS drugs in Thailand could be lowered, making them accessible to more HIV-infected Thais, without destroying the economic incentives of drug companies to develop new AIDS drugs.

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