Biothai wades into patents row

Biothai wades into patents row

Biothai has accused the Department of Intellectual Property with neglecting the importance of protecting local wisdom and resources - like medical marijuana.
Biothai has accused the Department of Intellectual Property with neglecting the importance of protecting local wisdom and resources - like medical marijuana.

An advocacy group is calling on the Department of Intellectual Property to better regulate the patenting of cannabis extracts in traditional Thai medicines.

Biodiversity Sustainable Agriculture Food Sovereignty Action Thailand's (Biothai) move followed a call by a group of activists last week, who urged the department to withdraw drug patent requests for cannabis extracts, after they found that a number of foreign pharmaceutical companies had filed 12 patent requests with the department.

In a post on its Facebook page, Biothai accused the department of neglecting the importance of protecting local wisdom and resources.

The group said the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTTAM) has already compiled as many as 93 concoctions with marijuana as their main ingredient, including formulas contained in the three-century-old Phra Naraya textbook.

Among the 93 formulas compiled by the DTTAM is Thipphakat, that mixes marijuana leaves with several other herbs to relieve symptoms of a wide range of ailments, that range from addiction to insomnia and miscarriage complications, it said.

Other traditional formulas gathered by the DTTAM are mainly used for pain relief, epilepsy and neurological conditions, it added.

The group pointed out that the Indian government has been consulting Ayurvedic texts, as well as records of traditional pharmaceutical formulas to defend against any patent claim on its traditional medicines by other countries.

Biothai highlighted India's recent fight against the patenting of turmeric to promote wound healing and neem (Azadirachta indica) as an insect repellent.

Under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), signatories must have laws in place that require those seeking to patent a plant to support their applications with the plant's genetic resources and evidence of the local use of the plant, the group said.

The CBD is a multilateral treaty with the goals of conserving of biological diversity, promoting the sustainable use of its components, and the fair use and equitable sharing of benefits from biological resources.

The cabinet last week approved a draft amendment to the 1979 Narcotics Act to legalise cannabis for medicinal and research purposes. However, all use of the drug will remain strictly controlled.

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