Brazil’s National STD/AIDS Programme Announces Largest Drug Price Reduction Deals in Five Years
Brazil's National STD/AIDS Programme on Thursday announced that it has received the largest price reductions on antiretroviral drugs in five years, Reuters reports. The deal will save the country's treatment program $107 million this year and allow 20,000 new patients to obtain treatment through the program in 2004, according to Reuters. The country negotiated deals with drug makers, including Roche, Gilead and Abbott Laboratories, generating discounts of between 10% and 76% for the five most expensive antiretroviral medications. The discounts brought the total cost of the national AIDS program to $180 million for 2004 and the cost per patient to $1,200, Reuters reports. With the addition of 20,000 new patients this year, the program will provide treatment to a total of 148,500 HIV-positive people (Bugge, Reuters, 1/15). Brazil's AIDS program, which is considered to be one of the most progressive in the world, manufactures and distributes generic versions of antiretroviral drugs, ignoring patents issued before 1997 when Brazil signed an intellectual property law in order to join the World Trade Organization (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/11/03). Approximately 600,000 Brazilians are HIV-positive, but more than 65% are unaware of their HIV status (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/17/03). Health Minister Humberto Costa said, "These were hard negotiations, but the result was very positive," adding that the "important thing is that with the savings we have made we are guaranteeing the continuation of the program and ensuring that every Brazilian that needs treatment for AIDS receives adequate treatment" (Reuters, 1/15).
Although the Brazilian government was able to negotiate a deal in which the program could obtain Merck's antiretroviral drug efavirenz at a cost of $1.58 per patient per day -- a 25% reduction agreed to in November -- the government is seeking to "make the drug even cheaper," Inter Press Service reports. The government is hoping to obtain a voluntary license to produce the drug in a state-run laboratory in Rio de Janeiro, according to Inter Press Service. Joao Sanches, Merck's local communications director, said that the proposal "is one possibility." But a similar proposal made to Roche, which manufactures the antiretroviral drug nelfinavir, is not as promising, according to Inter Press Service. Roche said that it has already cut the price of the drug by 72%. But Brazilian officials have said that they might implement compulsory licensing, allowing other drug makers to produce nelfinavir. Alexandre Grangeiro, director of Brazil's AIDS program, said, "It is relatively little, because drug production by a state-run lab would allow an additional 30% discount, even paying 4% for patent rights." According to Inter Press Service, even with the deep discounts, pharmaceutical companies still benefit by participating in the national program because it "assure[s] sales without having to spend money on advertising or distribution" (Osava, Inter Press Service, 1/15).