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Thailand imports generic Plavix from India

The Thai government has said it will import from India generic versions of sanofi-aventis and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (BMS) platelet anti-aggregant Plavix (clopidogrel).

The Thai government has said it will import from India generic versions of sanofi-aventis and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (BMS) platelet anti-aggregant Plavix (clopidogrel).

Vichai Chokvivat, chairman of the state-run Government Pharmaceutical Organisation, said in a statement that Thailand would start importing the first batch of two million Plavix pills immediately.

The imported version of Plavix, which is prescribed for cardiac patients, will cost THB 1 (USD 0.03) per pill, according to Chokvivat who added that the shipment would arrive within two months.

The announcement, which follows the an Indian court rejection of Novartis' patent application to protect its cancer drug Glivec from generic competition, will not help the current relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and the two countries. Novartis has already said it will withdraw all its R&D investment in India and transfer them to China.

Thailand has already angered Western pharmaceutical companies by issuing compulsory licenses, which temporarily suspend patent protections for branded medications.

The Thai government has so far approved compulsory licenses for Plavix and two patent protected antiretroviral drugs. For example, the country is already importing BMS' non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) efavirenz from India and has threatened to expand its generic programmes to include cancer drugs, such as Novartis' Glivec (imatinib).

In early August 2007, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said that the Thai generic drug programme was a matter of great concern for the European Union.

Vichai countered that the generic programme was necessary as Plavix was too expensive for Thai patients, citing that one pill currently costs over THB 70 (USD 2) in the country.

Thailand's health ministry said that only 10 per cent of the 300,000 heart disease patients in Thailand could afford to purchase Plavix.

BMS' Q2 FY07 earnings increased six per cent on resumed growth for Plavix. Morgan Stanley analysts said a revival in sales of the drug was "the swing factor" for the US firm during the quarter.

Plavix sales were depressed by Apotex's generic copy launched in August 2006. Although a New York federal judge blocked continued sale weeks later, large batches of it were already on the market and had undermined demand for most of 2006. Q2 FY07 sales of Plavix rose four per cent to USD 1.2bn, as almost all remaining supplies of the cheaper Apotex generic has been sold.

24th August 2007

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