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NGOS warn against extra patent protection

Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) yesterday joined forces in demanding that the Cabinet refuse to endorse extra protection for drug patent holders.

They are worried that the increased protection under TRIPS Plus will hurt patients' access to much-needed medicines. These are tighter measures than those imposed by the earlier Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights under the World Trade Organisation.

"Please don't hurt Thais' health," said Apiwat Kwangkaew, chairman of the Thai Network of People living with HIV/Aids.

Joining his call are several organisations that have been fighting for patients' and consumers' rights.

They submitted a written petition to Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong amid reports that the Cabinet will today consider the negotiation framework for the free-trade-area agreement between Thailand and the European Union.

Apiwat said lower tariffs for certain products could never be compared to the health of people.

"In addition, the lower tariffs will likely benefit just some investment groups," he said.

Apiwat said his concerns were growing because the Commerce Ministry had never disclosed the information on the ongoing FTA negotiations with the EU.

"I am worried that the negotiations will lead to the extension of drug patents' validity." He insisted that the government should just follow the protection of intellectual-property rights in line with WTO regulations, not TRIPS Plus.

Foundation for Consumers board member Kannikar Kijtivejakul questioned why the Public Health Ministry did not reaffirm its stance against drug monopoly any more after the government was pushing ahead with the FTA negotiation.

"If the government goes for the TRIPS Plus, we will petition the Central Administrative Court," she said.

Pradit yesterday assured the NGOs that when it came to drug issues, the country would lose nothing in signing the FTA agreement with the EU.




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