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Awards Category: Corporate Employee (Private/Public Sector)

Dr. Krisana Kraisintu
Thai Pharmaceutical Consultant, Krisana Kraisintu Foundation

Dr. Krisana Kraisintu was born and raised on Samui Island, in the Southern Thai province of Suratthani. Her father was the only doctor on the island, and her mother the only midwife. Because Samui Island didn’t have a hospital then, Dr. Krisana’s home was turned into a makeshift in-patient ward to treat patients who had to stay on for longer treatments. Growing up in this environment instilled in her incredible compassion and a willingness to help those in need; it was almost inevitable that she would grow up to join the medical fraternity. Dr. Krisana went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy from Chiangmai University, a Master’s in Pharmaceutical Analysis from Strathclyde University, UK, and a Ph.D in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Bath, UK. She has also been bestowed Honorary Degrees of Doctor of Science (DSc.) and Doctor of Pharmacy from these three universities, as well as Mount Holyoke College, USA, Prince of Songkla University, and King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology, Thailand. Dr. Krisana began her career as a lecturer in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Prince of Songkla University before joining the Research and Development Institute of the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) as Director. She later became Pharmaceutical Consultant for action medeor, a German Aid organisation dealing with local production and distribution of medicines in Africa, and was also consultant in the transfer of technology for local production of anti-malarial and anti-retroviral drugs in 17 African countries. She was Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy in Rangsit University, Thailand before assuming the position of Rector of the College of Oriental Medicine and Honorary Dean of Faculty of Pharmacy there. She is also President of the Medicinal Mushroom and Natural Products Association of Thailand, and a Board Member of the GPO.

Creating a Better Future

Dr. Krisana, sometimes fondly known as the Gypsy Pharmacist, has dedicated her life to increasing access to medicines for underprivileged and disadvantaged individuals in developing countries in order to ensure affordable health care for all. Her focus has been on enabling local pharmaceutical production by formulating and manufacturing affordable generic drugs to treat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other life-threatening diseases.

Dr. Krisana joined the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) as its first director of the Research and Development Institute – an institute that didn’t exist prior to her appointment, and which she built up from scratch – to pursue her commitment to ensuring access to high-quality medicines at an affordable price for the general Thai population. Between 1992 and 2002, Dr. Krisana worked on formulation development and bioequivalence studies of HIV/AIDS-related drugs. Her dedication to increase treatment for this dread diseases in Thailand resulted in the creation of the first generic version of Zidovudine (AZT), which prevents mother to child transmission and is used for the treatment of advanced HIV infection. This helped raise Thailand’s profile as the first developing country to manufacture generic HIV/AIDS drugs. Later, in 1998, Dr. Krisana again put Thailand on the map by developing the first generic HIV cocktail drug, which was selected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the first regimen of treatment for the disease in poor countries. More importantly, it made HIV/AIDS treatment significantly more affordable, about 70-80% lower than available treatments at that time. During that same period, Dr. Krisana also worked to develop five other anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs, which were exported to neighbouring countries to treat poor patients. At this point, Thailand became the first country in history to manufacture generic HIV/AIDS drugs for export.

At the same time, Dr. Krisana’s love for herbal remedies, a passion inherited from her parents, also led her to make a mark in the Thai traditional herbal medicine scene. All in all, she helped develop 64 herb-based products ranging from supplements and cosmetic to treatments for diabetes, high blood pressure and child conditions. As an extension of this, she worked with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Ubon Rajathanee University to set up a manufacturing hub for a range of traditional products created from 78 medicinal plants. These popular products are now widely used by locals in the Northeastern provinces of Thailand; meanwhile the hub acts as a training centre for industrial pharmaceutical training.

After 2002, Dr. Krisana turned her efforts outwards. She resigned from her position at the GPO, and, in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, travelled to the Democratic Republics of Congo on her own expense in order to transfer her knowledge to support the nation’s battle again HIV/AIDS. She later became a consultant to the German non-profit organisation action medeor to help them expand their humanitarian efforts. During this period, she had two goals in mind; one, to guide these countries in building world-standard pharmaceutical factories, and two, to affect the transfer of technology in the production and quality control of essential medicines such as anti-malarial and ARV drugs to local personnel. She provided technical assistance in setting up an ARV plant in Congo to manufacture a fixed-dose combination called AFRI-VIR. She also oversaw the construction of an ARV plant and anti-malarial drug unit at Tanzania Pharmaceutical Industry (TPI). TPI began manufacturing anti-malarial drugs in 2003 and an ARV fixed-dose combination called TT-VIR in 2005.

Since then, Dr, Krisana, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand has spearheaded technology transfer initiatives and provided consultation to bring about local production of anti-malarial and ARV drug in both East and West African countries. This has led to significant achievements such as the personnel of UMMP in Mali mastering techniques to produce co-blistered artesunate and amodiaquine tables as well as fixed-dose combinations of these drugs in a single tablet, the first ever African country to ever achieve such a feat.

Today, Dr. Krisana continues to foster capacity building and local production of essential drugs in various countries around the world. She has also helped establish a specialised unit for R&D of herbal medicines and a manufacturing facility at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China. Dr. Krisana has written several books including Quality Assurance and Control of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Legend of Thai Traditional Herbal Medicines, and the Gypsy Pharmacist, which documents her journeys to Africa and her fond memories of its people. She has also published over 100 articles on the pharmaceutical industry. She was the inspiration for the play ‘Cocktail’ by Swine Palace the Louisiana State University for the Performing Arts – it was also staged at the National Cultural Theatre of Bangkok in 2009, with a book on the play published by Silkworm books in the same year. She has also been the subject of various documentaries around the world.

Overcoming Obstacles

Creating affordable generic life-saving drugs for the underprivileged and underserved has put Dr. Krisana in direct confrontation with powerful pharmaceutical companies many times over the years. This, along with her work in African countries, has exposed her many times to dangerous work environments and even threats to her life. Yet for Dr. Krisana, the biggest obstacle to overcome has been getting those she’s trying to help, to help themselves. For the impoverished and disenfranchised who are constantly ignored and neglected by the authorities and society alike, believing that they can be responsible for creating medicines that improve the health of their friends, family, community and themselves is something almost unthinkable. Dr. Krisana worked tirelessly to show them that this was indeed possible, persevering through prejudice, resistance and indifference to achieve her noble goals.

Measurable Outcomes

Dr. Krisana has been universally recognised for her efforts over the past decades, with even Bill Gates adding his voice to the chorus of praise for her world-changing work. Deservingly, she received the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize, in 2009. In the same year, she was bestowed the Decoration ‘The Most Admirable Order of the Direkgunabhorn’ by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) of Thailand for her dedication in devoting herself and her actions for the benefits of the country, religion and the people of Thailand.

Dr. Krisana was recognised by the United Nations as One of the World’s Women of Achievement in 2014, and was bestowed a plaque of honour by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Siridhorn signifying her as 2013’s Distinguished Thai Lady of the Year. She took home the Outstanding Lady in the International Arena award 2010 from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security of Thailand; she also received the Quality Person in Science Award from the Ministry of Science and Technology that same year. She has taken home a Gold Medal at the World Exhibition of Innovation, Research & New Technology, a Global Scientific Award by the Letter Foundation, a Reminders Day AIDS Award, the Asian of the Year title, and a Citizen Hero Award.

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