Social activist Jon ungphakorn
The World Health Organisation estimates that 10 million people die needlessly every year because they cannot get hold of the right drugs.
 
For international health campaigners a large part of the blame for this rests with multinational drug companies who they say not only charge too much but block the manufacture of cheaper versions of patented drugs.
 
The Thai government is butting heads with the multinational pharmaceutical giants, further inflaming controversy over medicine affordability and patent protection. 

Bangkok recently broke the patents on heart disease drug Plavix, made by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis, and Abbott Laboratories' Kaletra, which is used to treat HIV/Aids.

This puts Bangkok at the forefront of the global debate over how to widen access to life-saving drugs while preserving intellectual property protection as an incentive for innovation. Upping the ante, US-based Abbott Laboratories says it will withhold a new HIV treatment from Thailand, where half a million people are carrying the HIV virus.
 
101 East talks to 12-year-old Im, whose mother and father died of infections caused by Aids when she was a baby. They had already passed HIV on to her. Her survival is the result of Thailand's anti-retroviral drug programme which was launched in 2003 and now provides drugs for about 80,000 HIV positive people at minimal cost.

Former Thai senator and prominent social activist Jon Ungphakorn tells presenter Teymoor Nabili that the Thai government is setting a great example. 
 
Ungphakorn, himself a recovered cancer patient, calls for the breaking of further patents to increase the availability of affordable drugs for other diseases, including cancer.
 
Ed Kelly, a lawyer who represents overseas drug firms in Thailand, says Bangkok's move is short-sighted and argues that medical development depends on patent protection.

Watch this episode of 101 East here:

Part 1:

 

Part 2:

This episode of 101 East aired from 23 March 2007

101 East airs at 16.30GMT every Thursday on Al Jazeera English and is repeated during the week.


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