Brazil Agrees to Donate AIDS Drugs, Share Technology With Other Developing Nations
The Brazilian government has agreed to donate some of its self-produced generic AIDS drugs and to share the technology it uses to derive and manufacture the drugs with some developing nations that cannot afford the drugs at their commercial price, the New York Times reports (New York Times, 7/9). The Brazilian Ministry of Health manufactures generic versions of patented AIDS drugs in local laboratories as part of its national HIV/AIDS program, lowering the annual cost of treatment to about $1,000 per person. Brazil has reduced new infections from 20,000 to 15,000 this year through the "aggressive" program. Brazil's actions had raised strong objections from pharmaceutical companies and the U.S. government, but opposition has decreased since a declaration last fall by the World Trade Organization that international patent rights "do not take precedence over public health crises" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/18/01). HIV/AIDS activists and Latin American health officials had been "disappoint[ed]" by Brazil's previous refusal to share its stock of generic AIDS drugs with other countries in the region, NPR's "Morning Edition" reports (Kaste, "Morning edition," NPR, 7/9).
Paulo Teixeira, director of Brazil's national AIDS program, said his government "feels responsible for sharing its experiences with other developing countries, especially when it is related to access to antiretroviral drugs." Under the program, Brazil will provide $1 million in donated drugs and technical assistance to other developing countries. Interested nations are being asked to submit proposals for 10 pilot projects, which will each initially treat 100 patients. Teixeira added that the government is also in discussions with international organizations, such as the Ford Foundation, about expanding the program (Reuters Health, 7/9). Activists rallied against the government in May after it denied a request to provide an emergency supply of medication to a Honduran woman dying of AIDS-related causes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/29).
The full NPR segment is available in RealPlayer Audio online ("Morning Edition," NPR, 7/9).