The World Health Organisation estimates that 10 million people die needlessly every year because they cannot get hold of the right drugs.
|Social activist Jon ungphakorn|
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.