Brazilian Officials Declare ‘Victory’ in Discounted AIDS Drugs Agreement with MerckMerck & Co. has reduced the prices of its AIDS drugs Stocrin and Crixivan for Brazil to about one-third of the drugs' previous prices under a new deal the company worked out with Brazilian officials, the Wall Street Journal reports. Last year, Brazil paid $6.15 per patient per day for Stocrin and $7.80 per patient per day for a generic version of Crixivan made at a local lab. Merck has offered to sell the drugs at $2.52 and $2.82 per patient per day, respectively. Brazil had rejected previous price offers from Merck on the grounds that they were too expensive. Senior Brazilian health officials have "hailed" the new deal as "a victory in a year-long battle with foreign drug makers to cut the prices of vital AIDS-fighting medicines." But Paulo Teixeira, head of the country's AIDS program, said that Brazil will not stop its efforts to produce generic versions of patented drugs. "Our attempt to master the process for producing (Stocrin) and other drugs will continue," he said (Jordan, Wall Street Journal, 3/30). Earlier this month, Merck threatened to take legal action against a Brazilian government-owned lab over its importation and research of efavirenz, a generic version of Stocrin ( Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/28).
Brazil-U.S. Trade Talks Set for Today
The conflict between Brazil and the United States over patent protections for AIDS drugs is one of the disputes that has put the two countries "at odds" with each other on trade issues, the New York Times reports (Rohter, New York Times, 3/30). Today, President Bush and Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso will meet to discuss a variety of trade issues affecting the two countries. Brazil, which has the world's ninth-largest economy, is key to successfully implementing the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), according to Riordan Roett, director of the Western Hemisphere Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "The U.S.-Brazil trade relationship has been very sore over the last couple years, and if we are going to make progress ... the differences have to be sorted out," Roett said (Karp, Wall Street Journal, 3/30). Cardoso added, "Let's be clear. The big market for the United States is Brazil, and we know that. The big market for us is the United States, and they know that" (New York Times, 3/30). However, Cardoso is "defiant" over a complaint filed by the United States with the WTO over Brazil's production of generic AIDS drugs (Wall Street Journal, 3/30). The complaint argues that Brazil's law requiring drug firms to reduce the price of AIDS drugs and permitting the compulsory licensing of generic drugs if the companies do not lower prices violates international trade rules ( Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/28). But Cardoso, who is "enjoying his highest popularity in two years," might be inclined to "take a firm line on trade" during his talks with Bush (Wall Street Journal, 3/30).
Ad Urges Cooperation With Brazil
The Brazil Information Center ran a quarter-page ad in today's Washington Post urging positive trade relations between Brazil and the United States. The ad bears the slogan "Partners in Hemispheric Progress" and includes quotes supporting free trade from the Independent Task Force of the Council on Foreign Relations; the InterAmerican Dialogue; and the North South Center. At the bottom of the ad is the message "Welcome to Washington President Fernando Henrique Cardoso." The ad was also supported by Atech, Embraco, Patri Inc. and Embraer (Washington Post, 3/30).