Despite Thailand’s government issuing an order designed to stop foreign pharmaceutical giants from monopolising the upcoming cannabis medical market, experts warn that new laws do not go far enough to prevent big-pharma from dominating the market.
E arlier this month, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha issued NCPO Order 1/2562 authorising the Intellectual P roperty Department (IPD) to suspend s even remaining problematic cannabis medicine patent applications from foreign companies in a move to settle the patent controversy. However, patent experts from BioThai Foundation and Rangsit University have warned that this order contained a loophole that could easily reverse the suspension a nd allow big pharmaceutical firms to monopolise the medical-cannabis market. Panthep Phuaphongphan, dean of Rangsit University’s Institute of Integrative M edicine and Anti-Ageing, explained t hat the NCPO order did not suspend patent applications, but instead provided guidelines that the IPD had to follow when deciding to put an application on hold.
I PD director-general Thosapone Dansuputra is now authorised to act on these patent applications and decide whether any of them should be dropped altogether or just have some privileges revoked, he said. Also, he said, the public should keep a close eye on the IPD’s decision. Thosapone Dansuputra “The order states that since the use of cannabis is illegal under the current law, the patent registration for cannabis medicines will be prohibited. “ But once the new law legalising medical cannabis is enforced, the embargo on patent registration will be lifted,” he said. “ This means that once medical c annabis is legalised, pharmaceutical g iants can legally seek to patent their c annabis-related drug formulae, and if their applications are approved, they can exert control over the country’s cannabis medicine market.”
Panthep pointed out that since the government has already submitted the new law for His Majesty’s signature, it should be enforced in no more than 90 days. Also, the NCPO order, which was issued in January, gives the IPD 90 days to make a decision on the patent applications, while the companies that filed these applications have 60 days to appeal the decision. If the IPD does not take swift action and suspend the problematic applications b efore the new law is enforced, these companies can fight back, saying their patent applications are no longer illegal and ask for the suspension to be reversed, he cautioned. “Hence, if the IPD insists on keeping the interests of big conglomerates, then the premier should dismiss the department’s d irector-general and replace him with someone who is willing to protect national interest,” Panthep said. “
The government should also add another clause to the NCPO order to ensure illegal patent applications are suspended.” He added that people who rely on underground cannabis-based medication will end up having to pay a lot more if these pharmaceutical giants take control of the medical cannabis supply in the country, while those who want to continue using traditional medicines could face intellectual property infringement charges.