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Document Abstract
Published: 2009

Intellectual property rights and public health: lessons from Thailand

How could Thailand use TRIPS to ensure the affordability of medicines for its poor patients?
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High prices of medicines is often the major cause of inaccessibility of medicines for poor patients in developing countries, and TRIPS agreement is often deemed as a main cause to raise medicines’ prices. However, there are avenues through the use of the TRIPS flexibilities – Thailand is an exemplary case study for other developing countries in this area.

The paper indicates that although the legal clarity for the use of the TRIPS flexibilities has been confirmed by the Doha Declaration and various UN resolutions, the use of these flexibilities has been variable. Nevertheless, Thailand could successfully use TRIPS to ensure the affordability and accessibility of medicines for its poor patients.

The author clarifies that Thailand's approach demonstrates the fact that that openness and greater involvement of external parties such as the UN agencies and civil society groups could be constructive and helpful.

Key conclusions are as follows:
  • the use of the TRIPS flexibilities will be instrumental in ensuring continued ability of medicine manufacturers to supply generic medicines, and to exert downward pressures on medicine prices
  • nonetheless, much will depend on governments to take the necessary measures, and a first step will be ensuring that national legislation and regulations permit the use of the flexibilities
  • concerning LDCs, the flexibility extended by the Doha Declaration to LDCs to delay providing product patent protection for pharmaceuticals until 2016 should be well-utilised
  • LDCs should also consider establishing clear guidelines for decision-making, which designate specific responsibilities to government authorities or bodies for the various stages of decision-making
  • identically, countries should be extremely cautious while negotiating international and regional agreements containing new intellectual property obligations that go beyond those currently existing in the multilateral agreements
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Authors

C. Oh

Focus Countries

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