Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thai HIV/AIDS Advocates To Ask Administrative Court For Review Of Ruling That Found Abbott Did Not Violate Trade Laws

HIV/AIDS advocates in Thailand plan to ask the country's Administrative Court to evaluate an Internal Trade Department's decision to not file suit against Abbott Laboratories for allegedly violating trade laws when the company canceled the registration of its anti retro viral Aluvia with the country's Food and Drug Administration, the Bangkok Post reports (Apiradee, Bangkok Post, 1/18).

The Thai government in January 2007 issued a compulsory license to produce a lower-cost version of Abbott's anti re trivial Kaletra. The drug company in May 2007 offered to sell Aluvia, an updated version of Kaletra, at a reduced price in Thailand on the condition that the country agree not to allow generic versions of the drug into the market, Siriwat Thiptaradol, secretary-general of the Thai FDA, said. The Thai Ministry of Public Health in June 2007 confirmed that it would continue with its plan to issue a compulsory license for the drug after Abbott and the health ministry could not reach a price agreement during negotiations. Thailand's FDA in October 2007 completed the registration of a generic version of Aluvia for use under the country's compulsory licensing program. The generic version is manufactured by the Indian generic pharmaceutical company Matrix Laboratories .

According to HIV/AIDS advocates, Abbott canceled registration of Aluvia in Thailand after the government issued a compulsory license for the drug. Advocates have said the move violated section 25 of the country's Trade Competition Act, which stipulates restrictions against a product being dominant in the market.

In addition, the advocates said that the canceled registration violated section 28 of the trade act, which places controls on parent companies' influence on subsidiaries' decisions, the Post reports.

Advocates later petitioned a trade competition panel at the Ministry of Commerce to look into the matter. The panel in late December 2007 ruled that Abbott's withdrawal of Aluvia's registration did not violate trade regulations.
Panel secretary Yanyong Phuangrach said the body determined the market value of Aluvia was too small to dominant the market and thus did not violate trade law.

Saree Ongsomwang - manager of the Foundation for Consumers, which petitioned the ministry panel to examine the issue - said advocates would ask the Administrative Court to review the panel's decision. Nimit Tienudom, chair of the AIDS Access Foundation, petitioned the panel to reveal additional details about its decision. He also proposed that a new panel of neutral academics be convened to examine the issue. Saree said she was "surprised by the panel's decision," adding, "They should have prioritized health problems caused by HIV/AIDS and consider essential lifesaving drugs as a special case rather than protecting the benefits of big pharmaceutical business" (Bangkok Post, 1/18).

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