The Thai government's removal last week of Vichai Chokevivat -- "one of the most vocal opponents" of patent protections for drug companies -- from Governmental Pharmaceutical Organization's board is a "small" but "important" step in "restoring Thailand's international reputation and protecting patients' health," a Wall Street Journal Asia editorial says.
Vichai "strongly supported" Thailand's efforts to issue compulsory licensing for certain medications, including antiretroviral drugs, according to the editorial. According to the Journal, Vichai's argument that the government "was acting according to domestic and international law" is "debatable, at best," in part because Thailand does not "have an HIV/AIDS epidemic like sub-Saharan Africa."
The editorial says that Thai Health Minister Chaiya Sasomsup, who took office in February, "deserves kudos" for pledging to review the country's patent polices and for removing "harmful public voices" such as Vichai's. Chaiya "understands" that pharmaceutical companies will not "devote significant resources to researching Thai-specific diseases" if the companies are not "compensated for their innovations," according to the Journal. It is "[f]ar better" for Thailand to "encourage world-class, private drug companies to invest" in the country and "work with the government on better drug pricing schemes and delivery programs," the editorial says, concluding that Chaiya's "quiet war for property rights" is "in the best interest of Thai patients" (Wall Street Journal Asia, 5/29).