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Free cancer drugs for Thailand if changes made

According to local media reports, the Thai health minister has said that Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis may provide the country with free cancer medicine, if the current drive for generic versions of patented drugs is halted.

According to local media reports, the Thai health minister has said that Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis may provide the country with free cancer medicine, if the current drive for generic versions of patented drugs is halted.

Thailand is currently embroiled in an battle with global pharmaceutical companies over compulsory licences, which temporarily suspend patent protection.

The government has already issued compulsory licences to obtain generic versions of a heart drug and two HIV medicines.

In September 2007, the government announced it would also seek generic versions of four cancer drugs.

During talks with Novartis, health minister Mongkol Na Songkhla said the company had offered to provide its oncology product Gleevec/ Glivec (imatinib) for free, if Thailand halted its drive to expand its generic drug programme.

If a deal was reached, the government could provide unlimited amounts of the drug through its universal health care scheme, concluded Songkhla.

Per month, Imatinib currently costs up to THB 100,000 (USD 2,950).

30th September 2008

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