In 2010 and 2011, well ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, Toyama Chemical Co.,Ltd, now trading as “Fjujifilm Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd.”, filed three patent applications in Thailand nos. 1101001988, 1301001720, and 1301001721 for the production of Favipiravir tablets. Favipiravir is a pyrazinecarboxamide derivative with activity against RNA viruses that was initially approved for therapeutic use in resistant cases of influenza. Current treatments for people infected with COVID-19 in Thailand include the prescription of Favipiravir. On 17 July 2020, AIDS Access Foundation opposed the patent applications. The Patent Office of the Department of Intellectual Property of Thailand (DIP) has now rejected the applications on the ground that they lack of inventive step. Fujifilm Toyama may appeal against the rejection decision before the Patent Board. In the meantime, the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, a state enterprise and a key manufacturer of drugs is developing favipravir to boost the Thailand’s supply amid rising demand for Covid-19 treatment.
The Director General of the DIP, Vuttikrai Leewiraphan, commented the rejection of the patent applications:
“All sectors are playing their part in coping with the spread of Covid-19, with the common goal to provide people with quick access to necessary drugs”
which echoes what United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai wrote in a statement earlier this week:
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines”.