Impact of the World Trade Organization TRIPS Agreement on the Pharmaceutical Industry in Thailand

Article excerpt

The 1994 World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) established minimum universal standards in all areas of intellectual property. It is intended to implement these standards globally through a WTO enforcement mechanism. The present article proposes a strategy for alleviating the potentially negative impact of TRIPS in Thailand in relation to the following: purchasers; prescribers and dispensers; producers; products; price control; patent-to-third-party; parallel imports; power of the customer; patentable new drugs; personnel; and prevention policies. The following TRIPS provisions are pertinent to the pharmaceutical industry in Thailand: the limited term of product and process patents; the conditions of protection; and the broad scope for compulsory licensing and enforcement procedures in the national patent system.

Keywords Drug industry; Commerce; Drug costs; Legislation, Drug; Patents; Treaties; Thailand (source: MeSH).

Mots cles Industrie pharmaceutique; Commerce; Cout medicament; Legislation pharmaceutique; Brevet; Thailande (source: INSERM).

Palabras clave Industria farmaceutica; Comercio; Costos en drogas; Legislacion de medicamentos; Patentes; Tailandia (fuente: BIREME).

Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2001, 79: 461-470.

Voir page 470 le resume en francais. En la pagina 470 figura un resumen en espanol.


In 1947, a total of 23 countries signed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The primary objective was to promote and regulate the liberalization of international trade through rounds of trade negotiations. Between 1986 and 1994 the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations led to the Marrakech Agreements. These established the World Trade Organization (WTO) and extended the rules governing commercial relations between trading partners to a number of new areas, such as agriculture, services, investment measures and the protection of intellectual property rights. All of these areas had previously been excluded from trade liberalization.

Since 1994, attention has focused on the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) as the most far-reaching international instrument ever negotiated in this field. It establishes minimum universal standards in all areas of intellectual property and the intention is to implement these standards globally through a strong enforcement mechanism established in WTO. The TRIPS agreement requires universal patent protection for any invention in any field of technology. This affects pharmaceuticals, which many countries had previously excluded from patent protection in order to produce drugs at reduced prices and thereby contribute to the improvement of public health. WTO member countries that did not previously recognize pharmaceutical patents must amend their patent legislation within a limited time or transition period. Any member country failing to bring its patent law into conformity with the TRIPS agreement, if challenged by another member country, is subject to the WTO dispute settlement system. Sanctions may be established in accordance with WTO procedures. The TRIPS patent system can be expected to have a great impact on the health sector and may negatively affect national drug production, drug prices, the availability of essential medicines and pharmaceutical technology, and numerous other factors in developing and least developed countries. In addition, there could be a greater concentration of drug production in industrial countries rather than a transfer of technology to, or foreign direct investment (FDI) in developing countries.

No extensive review of the practical implications of the TRIPS agreement has been conducted at the global and national levels, and at the regional level only Latin America has been covered. The present paper examines the consequences of the agreement for the pharmaceutical industry in Thailand with a view to learning lessons applicable to all developing countries. …


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