HONG KONG, April 25 (Reuters) - HIV/AIDS activists in nearly 20 countries have called for a global boycott of Abbott products over what they say are the pharmaceutical firm’s intimidating business tactics in Thailand.
Abbott Laboratories Inc. (ABT.N) offered this week to sell a heat-stable form of AIDS drug Aluvia in Thailand, reversing a boycott to protest against the country’s use of patent laws, or compulsory licencing, to import cheaper medicines.
But non-profit groups have dismissed the move as cosmetic.
“Abbott has agreed to register Aluvia (for sale) only under the condition that they (Thailand) stop the compulsory licence, which is tantamount to blackmail,” said Brigitte Tenni of the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Bangkok.
“If we tolerate it now, other developing countries will be very initimidated to issue compulsory licences in future.”
Abbott was not immediately available for comment.
Aluvia is badly needed because it does not require refrigeration like its older version, Kaletra, eliminating the need for costly cold storage in poor countries.
Non-profit groups in Thailand, India, Indonesia, the U.S., South Korea, Brazil and Argentina are gearing up to protest outside Abbott offices or U.S. embassies on Thursday.
In countries where protests are frowned upon, such as Singapore, Vietnam and China, NGOs there will join the other countries in calling for a boycott of Abbott products, except for essential medicines that have no substitutes.
“We urge people to denounce Abbott for its actions, not to buy its products. It sells many milk products. We will distribute it (petition) to all groups in China from tomorrow,” said Thomas Cai, a volunteer with China Treatment Advocacy Network.
Abbott recently cut its price for Kaletra and Aluvia to US$1,000 per patient per year in 40 low- and middle-income countries, but activists say it is still too expensive.
“People will be using this drug for a very long time, we can buy in bulk and they can still make a lot of money,” Cai said.
((Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn, editing by Bill Tarrant; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org; +852-2843-6 934)) rtrs Keywords: ABBOTT AIDS/
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