Merck Clarifies Drug Offer, New Discounts Will Not Extend to Brazil
Pharmaceutical company Merck on Wednesday clarified its offer to extend developing nations "deep discounts" on two HIV drugs, saying Brazil is not included in the offer, Reuters reports. Merck's original announcement "fueled hopes" that the offer would also apply to Brazil. Marcos Levy, director of corporate affairs for Merck, said the offer extends to "some, but not necessarily all" developing nations in sub-Saharan Africa. "We are in the process of trying to negotiate a price with the government of Brazil that would be good for them and good for us," he added, saying that Merck hopes to announce a "new price" by the beginning of next week. He cautioned that Brazil would not receive the same discounts offered earlier this week, such as $600 for an annual course of the protease inhibitor Crixivan, because it is a nation of "very appreciable resources." Merck also offered to sell to sub-Saharan countries Stocrin, also known as efavirenz, at $500 per patient per year. "The price is fantastic, it's half of what we pay for generics from India. If we could get that price there would be no need to produce drugs here," Eloan dos Santos Pinheiro, director of the state-owned laboratory, said. Brazil has threatened to begin manufacturing generic versions of Merck's efavirenz and another patented drug in June if prices do not decrease by that time. A local law that allows the government to break patents if a drug is not manufactured locally within three years of receiving its patent would enable Brazil to begin local manufacturing of Merck's drug. Brazil currently manufactures eight of the 16 available antiretroviral medications as part of the government's commitment to free treatment for all HIV patients. However, U.S. trade representatives have challenged the country's patent policies before the World Trade Organization (Darlington, Reuters, 3/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.