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Unlike Gore, Bill Clinton Backs Thailand and Brazil Over Pharma Profits

May 9, 2007 (EIRNS)—Former U.S. President Bill Clinton yesterday firmly supported the recent breaking of pharmaceutical patents on AIDS drugs by Thailand and Brazil.

Standing next to Thailand's Public Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla, who was visiting New York, Clinton said, "No company will live or die because of high-price premiums for AIDS drugs in middle-income countries—but patients may."

Dr. Mongkol said he believed the support from the former U.S. President was credible enough to clear doubts over the country's motives in challenging the patents of drug firms, the Bangkok Post reported.

Clinton's Vice President Al Gore had taken the opposite stand when he was in office, threatening South Africa with deadly sanctions if they continued producing generic drugs at lower costs to keep thier population alive.

Clinton also announced that the Clinton Foundation had negotiated steep price reductions for generic versions of costly, second-line AIDS drugs needed when the original medicines fail, as well as for less toxic, easier-to-use first-line medicines combined in a once-a-day pill, said the Post. The new prices would halve the cost of the drugs for better-off developing countries in Latin America and Asia and cut prices by 25% in poor countries, which were already paying lower prices, the foundation said.

Dr. Mongkol will use Clinton's endorsement in confronting the Bush Administration's Trade Office on May 21. The Trade Office has downgraded Thailand to the Priority Watch List, which can bring sanctions, in retaliation for its breaking the drug patents, although the action is legal under international law when lives are at stake. Dr. Mongkol said Thailand would also hold out against pressure for it to submit to US demands on other issues in exchange for reversing the downgrade, including permission to patent not only drugs but also diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical procedures for the treatment of humans or animals, which would inevitably force Thais to shoulder high medical treatment costs.