Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Plavix and Thailand: why you should care

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The Thai government says the heart drug Plavix is way overpriced. And it's going to do something about it: it will begin importing generic versions of Plavix from India. The first batch of two million pills will arrive soon, says the chairman of Thailand's Government Pharmaceutical Organisation. The imported version of Plavix, a blood-thinner, will cost only the equivalent of three US cents per pill. Compare this with the current cost for Thai heart patients: two US dollars per pill!

In order to do all this, the Thai government approved a temporary suspension of patent protections for expensive medications. Needless to say, this has seriously ticked off the big pharmaceutical companies! (Plavix, by the way, is sold by Sanofi-Aventis and Bristol Myers-Squibb.) However, the Thai government has not limited itself to heart meds; it is also planning to import generic versions of pricey AIDS drugs, and is considering including cancer drugs in the measure, too.

Now, I don't know how legitimate the Thai government's measures are. But what would happen if governments elsewhere around the world started doing the same thing? The United States, perhaps? Ha! Don't hold your breath. But it's a nice thought, isn't it? Government leaders saying: "enough, already. Our people can't afford these over-priced drugs. Let's do something!"

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