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HIV treatment as a human right - learning from Thailand's experience

A Viewpoint article in this week's issue discusses the landmark legal case in Thailand where two people with HIV successfully challenged a multinational pharmaceutical company for restricting access to a key antiretroviral drug due to its high cost. Authors of the viewpoint discuss the processes behind this case and the implications for drug access as a human rights issue in other developing countries.

In October, 2002, two Thai people with HIV-1 won an important legal case to increase access to medicines. In its judgment in the didanosine patent case against Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Thai Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court ruled that, because pharmaceutical patents can lead to high prices and limit access to medicines, patients are injured by them and can challenge their legality. This ruling had great international implications for health and human rights, confirming that patients-whose health and lives can depend on being able to afford a medicine-can be considered as damaged parties and therefore have legal standing to sue.

Nathan Ford from Medecins Sans Frontieres and colleagues outline how the Thai court case was the outcome of a learning process and years of networking between different civil societies who joined forces to protect and promote the right of access to treatment. Their Viewpoint, based on key interviews and published reviews, summarises the efforts of society in Thailand to achieve a fair balance between international trade and public health. These efforts have focused on didanosine, an essential antiretroviral drug that in Thailand has become symbolic of how multinational companies and governments of industrialised countries protect their own interests at the expense of access to essential medicines for the poor.

Dr Ford comments: "In Thailand, civil society groups have been key to establishing the human right to health by challenging the practices of the multinational pharmaceutical industry an
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Contact: Joe Santangelo
j.santangelo@elsevier.com
212-633-3810
Lancet
12-Feb-2004


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