Brazil Might Break Drug Patents To Provide Cheaper Antiretrovirals Through National AIDS Program, Government Says
The Brazilian government has "threatened" to break the patents on as many as five of the 15 antiretroviral drugs it provides to patients through its National STD/AIDS Programme in order to produce less-expensive generic medicines, the Financial Times reports. Although the Brazilian government over the past three years "repeatedly" has said it might break patent laws in order to negotiate price reductions with pharmaceutical companies, so far it has not done so, according to the Times. The announcement is a part of the government's national AIDS program, which distributes antiretrovirals at no cost to all HIV-positive people in the country (Colitt, Financial Times, 12/3). The program, which is considered to be one of the most progressive in the world, manufactures and distributes generic versions of antiretrovirals, 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, 1/20). "If we don't move towards self-sufficiency the program will collapse," Pedro Chequer, head of the country's AIDS program, said, adding, "It is not only a legal but above all an ethical commitment" (Financial Times, 12/3). In January, Brazil's program announced that it had received the largest price reductions on antiretrovirals in five years. The deal was expected to save the treatment program $107 million this year and allow 20,000 new patients to obtain treatment through the program in 2004. 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/20). Price negotiations over drug supplies for 2005 have just begun, according to the Times (Financial Times, 12/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.