On 6th September BioThai, together with Chulalongkorn University’sDrug System Monitoring and Development Centre, DMDC*, issued a statement on the patent application by Japanese researchers over a plant known in Thailand as Kratom**. Mr Veerapong Kriangsinyot, Secretaryof the Thai Holistic Health Foundation presented evidence to show that Kratom has been known in Thai local wisdom for a very long time. Inscriptions on the walls of Wat Pho and Wat Ratchaorotsaram temples, the Royal Textbook of Thai Medicine alone include at least 16 preparations. Kratomhas also been used in various medicinal purposes by local communities elsewhere in Thailand.It is even referred to in the novel Khun Chang and Khun Phaen in the chapter when Khun Phaen marches off. Other pieces of evidence can be presented, but it is clear that the registration of this patent is based on knowledge derived from Thai local wisdomand Thai natural resources which the group of Japanese researchers had been studying together with Thai Universities since 2006.
Associate Professor Jiraporn Limpananont, of the Centre for Social and Pharmaceutical Research and Practice, at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science, Chulalongkorn University, pointed out that the three patent applications of the Japanese researchers assertcomprehensive rights over many chemicals derived from the Mitragyninein Kratom leaves,including 7-Hydroxymitragynine, which are used to relieve pain in a broad range of forms. The issuing of these patents will have anegative impact on the future use of Kratom leaves for further development. This will curtail opportunities for using local wisdom to build Thailand 4.0 as announced by the government.
Somchai Rattanachuesakul, Dean of the Pridi Banomyong Faculty of Law, Dhurakij Pundit University, proposed a way to resolve the problems raised by the Japanese patent making 4 points. 1) The Thai Intellectual Property Department should consider whether the application for patents have over-stated the innovativecharacter of their application because it is founded on local wisdom and the derivatives may have pre-existed in the alkaloids from the Kratom leaf. 2) Section 52 of the Plant Protection Act should be invoked, which states that researchers must request permission and share benefits, and that patent requests in Thailand should be rejected if this legal process is not respected.3) An effective legal regime to protect biological resources and local wisdom must be developed as there are loop holes in the Thai law.Most importantly, 4) theIntellectual Property Department must amend the patent laws so that it is required toindicate the origin of the biological resources and local wisdom, in order that fair and equitable benefits can be shared. This is provided for in the Convention on Biological Diversity, and countries around the world, includingdeveloped countries such as Norway, Switzerland, etc, have amended their laws accordingly.
Witoon Lianchamroon said this weekthat the Drug System Monitoring and Development Centre, will coordinate with relevant academic and civil society organisations to submit a petition to the government to declassify Kratom as an addictive substance according to the Proscribed Drugs Act 1979*** in order that it can be grown and controlled for use in medicine and research. He proposed that the government revoke the patents and should not approveintellectual property rights which are based onbiological resources or local wisdom as this is contrary to international law,especiallyin countries that are Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Thaipatent law should be changed to protect the legitimate interests of the country, as proposed by intellectual property lawyers. The government should not join international trade agreementswhich will force Thailand to accept the patent regime pushed forward by the US in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and it should be careful as the same issues may be pushed on them by Japan through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Terms used above in Thai language:
* ศูนย์วิชาการเฝ้าระวังและพัฒนาระบบยา (กพย.) จุฬาฯ