The Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) has rejected a request to patent the anti-viral drug Favipiravir which is being administered to patients with few if any COVID-19 symptoms.
Vuttikrai Leewiraphan, the department director-general, ruled that the request by a manufacturer to patent the drug in its tablet form did not constitute an advanced invention under the 1979 Patent Act.
The applicant was allowed to submit additional paperwork but still fell short of qualifying for the patent, he said.
Mr Leewiraphan said nobody could claim exclusive rights to produce or sell Favipiravir in Thailand and both the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation and any private company in Thailand were free to produce it.
The law allows the unsuccessful applicant to appeal the department’s decision within 60 days and if none is forthcoming the ruling will legally stand as final.
It has been reported that Japanese pharmaceutical company Fujifilm Toyama Chemical recently filed to patent a preparation of the drug after a previous patent expired in 2019.
The GPO is currently developing its own favipiravir to boost the kingdom’s supply amid rising demand for Covid-19 treatment and reduced dependence on imports.
Mr Leewiraphan said it was of paramount importance in the COVID-19 crisis that people had prompt access to life-saving drugs. At the same time, he acknowledged the pandemic had created many business opportunities.
Since the outbreak early last year, more than 60 Thai nationals have sought patents for medical equipment, face masks, UV steriliser machines, anti-viral drugs, and robots.
Bangkok governor Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang said the BMA now had 600,000 Favipiravir pills and these would help to stop mildly sick patients from becoming seriously ill.
Of the 1,478 COVID-19 patients in Bangkok, 1,241 are in the “green”, or mildly sick group, 199 in the more serious “yellow” group, and 38 in the sickest “red” group.
City Hall is offering Favipiravir to COVID-19 patients despite fears in the Public Health Ministry that some people might be resistant to it.