HIV/AIDS Advocates Urge Brazil To Keep Pledge, Break Antiretroviral Patents
HIV/AIDS advocates on Friday protested outside the Brazilian embassy in Washington, D.C., and the Brazilian Mission to the United Nations in New York City to urge the Brazilian government to keep its pledge to break antiretroviral drug patents to produce generic versions of the medicines, the Advocate.com reports (Advocate.com, 5/14). The Brazilian government in March threatened to break the patents on four antiretrovirals by April 4 if the drug manufacturers did not agree to allow the country to produce generic equivalents or buy them at discounted prices, but it has not yet done so. The Brazilian government asked U.S. drug companies Merck, Gilead and Abbott Laboratories to grant the government voluntary licensing to produce generic versions of Merck's efavirenz, Abbott's lopinavir and ritonavir, and Gilead's tenofovir. Brazil's National STD/AIDS Programme, which is considered to be one of the most progressive in the world, already manufactures and distributes generic versions of antiretrovirals, providing them at no cost to all HIV-positive people in the country. The program ignores all patents issued before 1997, when Brazil signed an intellectual property law in order to join the World Trade Organization. The government over the past three years repeatedly has said it might break patent laws in order to negotiate price reductions with pharmaceutical companies (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/11). Members of ACT UP/New York, the Student Global AIDS Campaign, Health Global Access Project and the Global AIDS Alliance delivered a spine to Brazilian authorities, telling them to continue with plans to break the patents and provide less-expensive versions of antiretroviral medications, according to the Advocate.com.
"Brazil has let itself be bullied by big drug companies long enough," GAA Executive Director Paul Zeitz said, adding, "It's time for Brazil to stand up to them and show the world the kind of global leadership this issue so desperately needs" (Advocate.com, 5/14). "Brazil has shown tremendous leadership in the fight against AIDS," John Riley, a member of ACT UP/New York, said, adding, "Poor country governments and AIDS activists are now looking to Brazil to keep its promise and to take all necessary steps to override the patents on these overpriced, desperately needed second-generation AIDS drugs. All eyes are watching Brazil." Health GAP member Sean Barry said, "The success of the Brazilian AIDS treatment program has been made possible by the local production of generic medicines. This policy has brought down the price of raw materials for antiretroviral medications internationally," adding, "The Health Ministry must stand up to pharmaceutical companies -- not only for the Brazilian people but for people living with AIDS around the world" (Health GAP release, 5/13).