Brazil’s ‘Hijacking’ of Intellectual Property Rights Hurts Investment in Country, HIV Research, Columnist Says
One of the costs of Brazil's attempts to "hijac[k]" intellectual property rights to obtain lower prices on antiretroviral drugs is "the signal" that it sends to pharmaceutical companies that their "patents are not secure and therefore investing in innovative science in Brazil carries a high risk," columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece (O'Grady, Wall Street Journal, 4/30). Brazil's National STD/AIDS Programme in January announced it had received the largest price reductions on antiretroviral drugs in five years through negotiations with drug makers, including Roche, Gilead and Abbott Laboratories. The new prices are expected to save the country's treatment program $107 million this year and allow 20,000 more HIV-positive patients to obtain treatment through the program (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/20). However, the prices were obtained through "threats" from the Brazilian government to "invoke 'national interest' and confiscate HIV patents" if drug companies did not agree to the prices they requested, O'Grady says. It is ironic that intellectual property rights have been so "battered beyond recognition" in a country that has said it wishes to attract pharmaceutical company investment, O'Grady adds. Beyond damaging its own chances of securing foreign investment, Brazil's negotiation tactics have hurt scientific research by "signaling to science-based industries that after they invest heavily to make discoveries, the results become a public good to be handed out for free," O'Grady says. Such a message is "especially troubling" in the field of HIV research because of the rapidly mutating nature of the virus and the constant need for "new discoveries," she says, concluding that Brazil's economy seems to be "fated" to be held back by its "age-old problem of insecure property rights" (Wall Street Journal, 4/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.