Comment on Congressional Letter Opposing USTR Pressure on Thailand

For Immediate Release
For More Information Contact: Sarah Rimmington or Robert Weissman, Essential Action, (202) 387-8030

Following is the statement of Robert Weissman, director of Essential Action, regarding a letter sent today by Representative Henry Waxman and nearly three dozen Members of Congress to the U.S. Trade Representative. The letter protests USTR’s inclusion of Thailand on the “Priority Watch List” for issuing lawful compulsory licenses, and is available here.

By using legal methods to authorize price-lowering generic competition on overpriced AIDS and heart-disease drugs, Thailand has shown the world what it means to place public health over commercial considerations. Thailand has been very clear that the savings it accrues will be used to expand access to important medicines.

USTR’s retaliatory placement of Thailand on the priority watch list was designed to punish the country for prioritizing public health over the interests of Big Pharma, and to send a message to other developing countries that they will be penalized for issuing compulsory licenses and utilizing the public health flexibilities available in the World Trade Organization’s intellectual property agreement.

But the times are changing. The letter released today by Representative Waxman and signed by nearly three dozen Members of Congress reflects growing sentiment in Congress that U.S. policy on access to medicines questions must change. This emerging view is that developing countries must be permitted to take legal measures to reduce the price of medicines and make them more widely available. These Members of Congress recognize that the U.S. government damages the nation’s commitments, reputation, aspirations and legitimate national interest when it reflexively adopts Big Pharma’s agenda overseas.