A Project of the American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society

WHO Director General Charts New Ground in Defending Free Market and Property Rights


February 7, 2007

At an international health conference in Bangkok, WHO Director General Chan expressed serious concerns about recent actions by the Thai Government that imposed three compulsory licenses (2 regarding AIDS drugs and one respecting a CV drug). She also credited the pharmaceutical industry for important activity in supplying life-saving medicines to the developing world. This is perhaps the first time that a WHO DG has made such specific and strong endorsements of the market and of the importance of patent protection. This is significant in light of the substantial increase in NGO anti-IP advocacy at WHO (through the IGWG), WIPO (through the Development Agenda), and at UNESCO.

For DG Chan's speech, click here

Local Bangkok papers reported that the Thai government was "disappointed" with the remarks.

Regarding the DG's remarks on business practices, here is one excerpt: "As part of these (public-private) partnerships, industry is donating high-quality drugs in great quantities. Some of these partnership agreements provide for the donation of drugs wherever needed, in whatever quantity, as long as it takes to reach targets. In still other cases, industry is donating millions of dollars to support WHO activities and build health infrastructure in affected countries. Industry is also conducting educational campaigns to reduce stigma, especially for leprosy, and thus encourage earlier reporting for treatment. This is good will, rather than good business for industry."