THAILAND LAUNCHES NEW HIV/AIDS TREATMENT SCHEME
Thailand has expanded its universal health care scheme to provide immediate access to anti-retroviral (ARV) treatments for around 80,000 people with HIV/AIDS. In the next two months, a further 20,000 people will also start receiving ARVs for the first time. In doing so, Thailand will become the first country in the world to guarantee that all citizens who need ARVs receive them.
The scheme which will allow patients to receive the drugs after the payment of a nominal THB30 (US$0.73) fee is being funded by a special new budget of THB2.76bn (US$67.34mn) approved recently by the government.
The provision of cheap ARVs has also been made possible as the government has allowed copy versions of patented HIV/AIDS treatments to be produced. Consequently, treatment costs have fallen from US$250 to US$30 per month. Industry sources expect that state-controlled drugmaker Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) will manufacture the majority of the new drugs.
Fears that a free trade agreement between the US and Thailand would affect
access to cheap generic ARVs have also been quashed after favourable comments
by Robert Zoellick, US Deputy Secretary of State. Zoellick has implied that
TRIPS intellectual property accords for cases of "national emergency"
should be sufficient to allow the continued production of cheap ARVs in Thailand.