A health advocacy group voiced its opposition Tuesday to a patent application for hepatitis C medicine, Sofosbuvir, filed with the Department of Intellectual Property’s Patent Office, which the group said was unjustified.
If approved, the drug patent would bar fair competition by precluding the development and distribution of generic versions of Sofosbuvir at lower prices, said a group of 30 activists led by the Aids Access Foundation and Thai Network of People Living with HIV/Aids.
On Tuesday, the group submitted to the office a document opposing the patent application filed by a representative of Gilead Sciences, an American biopharmaceutical company, on Sofosbuvir.
The group said this particular patent application should not be approved because it requests a patent on medical treatment and therapies for hepatitis C, which is against Section 9 of the Thai patent law.
Section 9 (4) of the law states that methods of medical diagnosis, therapies or treatment on humans or animals are not eligible for patent protection by law.
The patent application relates to Sofosbuvir along with Ribavirin, which is supposedly an “advanced innovation”, although no explanation or proof for why these two medicines are particularly effective when combined has been given, said the group of activists.
Chalermsak Kittitrakul, a drug access campaign officer with the Aids Access Foundation, said up to 13 patent applications were filed solely on Sofosbuvir-related formulas.
The foundation has so far only submitted opposition documents to two of these applications.
“Similar patent opposition has arisen in other countries as well, which prompted the patent offices of Egypt, China, Germany and Brazil to reject several patent applications filed with them on Sofosbuvir,” he said.
Nimitr Tian-udom, director of the Aids Access Foundation, said the network of activists working on public access to necessary medicines has become concerned about the information obtained.
After the Songkran holiday the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) will issue an order to approve all at once those patent applications that have been pending approval for more than five years.
He said he received information about the NCPO’s move despite the network having spoken on the issue of Sofosbuvir with Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam who is assigned to deal with the patent issue.
Deputy Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said the government is prepared to exercise Section 44 to clear the backlog of patent applications but only for those which are for more than five years.
For the applications on medicine, he has assigned the Department of Intellectual Property to consider if it is suitable to use Section 44 to deal with them.
The company’s representatives could not be reached for comment.