Abbott to withhold new drugs from Thailand in retaliation for Kaletra compulsory license

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Abbott, the manufacturer of Kaletra, has confirmed that it will not seek licenses for seven new products in Thailand, in retaliation for the Thai government’s decision to issue a compulsory license for the HIV protease inhibitor Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir).

The products will include a new heat-stable version of Kaletra, called Aluvia, which would be highly desirable in the Thai climate.

The compulsory license will allow the Thai government to import generic versions of Kaletra from India in order to save money. Thailand provides antiretroviral medicines for a nominal fee to all HIV-positive citizens who can’t afford to buy the drugs. Abbott offered a price cut for Kaletra in Thailand in mid-February.

Glossary

generic

In relation to medicines, a drug manufactured and sold without a brand name, in situations where the original manufacturer’s patent has expired or is not enforced. Generic drugs contain the same active ingredients as branded drugs, and have comparable strength, safety, efficacy and quality.

referral

A healthcare professional’s recommendation that a person sees another medical specialist or service.

"Thailand has revoked the patents on numerous medicines, ignoring the patent system. Under these circumstances, we have elected not to introduce new medicines there," said Dirk Van Eeden, public affairs director of Abbott International. (Note: a previous version of this story carried an incorrect quote published by Associated Press, which referred to `our medicines`. Abbott has drawn our attention to this inaccuracy and this quote has been amended).

Abbott has complained that the Thai government made no prior approaches to negotiate a price reduction before issuing a compulsory license.

However a lengthy dossier issued by the Thai government last week shows that a Thai government working party had been attempting to negotiate with patent holders since 2005, without any offers of price reduction.

The Thai government dossier stresses that, in its view, the expectation of prior negotiation has only delayed access to medicines.

It also highlights the fact that compulsory licensing is enlarging the market, not taking away market share from patent holders.

“The drugs derived from the government use of patent in Thailand will only be distributed to those patients who are covered by the government. Those who are well off and can afford to pay out of their own pocket, including around 2 million foreign patients, still have to pay the high price of patented products. These well-off people and the foreign patients are actually the only current market of the patented products. The patented products have little or no access at all, by the majority of Thais whose medicine cost are paid by the government.”

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