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Bernard Kouchner in Thailand : siding with Big Pharma or siding with people with AIDS ?

publié en ligne : 30 October 2007

Today, Tuesday, October 30th, Bernard Kouchner, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, will travel to Thailand. As a former humanitarian doctor, Bernard Kouchner is going to have to take sides. Will he support the big pharmaceutical companies, or on the contrary will he stand by the Thai patients in their fight for affordable generic drugs ?

On the 27th of March 2007, the previous French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Philippe Douste-Blazy, issued a statement backing the decision of the Thai government to distribute generic versions of two major antiretroviral drugs againts aids to its sick (see the French government wedbsite). As pharmaceutical companies were accusing Thailand of violating international patent law, France has used its statement to affirm the opposite

However, since March, France seems to have made a complete U-turn about Thailand. Indeed, France pushed the European Commission to exert pressure against Thailand in support of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi (see the July 18th letter from the European Commissioner to Thailand, that mentions precisely the French pharmaceutical company’s blockbuster drug, which Thailand has decided to import as a generic).

Moreover, France has remained silent when US pharmaceutical company Abbott Labs publicly announced a deadly blockade, against all Thai AIDS patients, from purchasing its lifesaving HIV medication Aluvia. Abbott had justified the deadly blockade as a means to force the Thai government to grant it a monopoly on sales of Aluvia in Thailand (see Abbott statement in the Wall Street Journal ofMarch 13th 2007).

Act Up-Paris demands :
- that Bernard Kouchner reaffirm France’s support for the Thai government’s decision to resort to generic competition as a means to ensure maximum access to treatment (as the previous minister of Foreign Affairs did last March)
- that Bernard Kouchner condemn Abbott publicly and state that it is immoral for a pharmaceutical company to deprive patients of a lifesaving drug as a ploy to force the government to grant a monoply on sales of this drug.

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