Brazil Using HIV/AIDS as Excuse To Expand Drug Industry Without Recognizing U.S. Patents, Opinion Piece Says
"Brazil is ripping off American drug and biotech patents as part of a larger effort to expand its economy and bolster its drug industry without having to spend the billions required to bring new medicines to market," Robert Goldberg, director of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research's Center for Medical Progress, writes in a Washington Times opinion piece (Goldberg, Washington Times, 6/27). Brazil's lower house of government earlier this month approved a bill that would suspend patents on all antiretroviral drugs and allow Brazilian companies to produce generic versions of the drugs if the government cannot negotiate price reductions or licensing agreements with patent-holding pharmaceutical companies (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/3). On Friday, Brazilian Health Minister Humberto Costa informed Abbott Laboratories that it will break the company's patent on the antiretroviral drug Kaletra within 10 days unless the company lowers the drug's price 42% to 68 cents per pill from its current price of $1.17 per pill. Brazil also is negotiating price reductions for Merck's efavirenz and Gilead's tenofovir (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/27). Brazil claims that it must break patents to make the medications affordable, but Brazil's HIV prevalence rate of 0.6% is similar to the U.S. rate of 0.5%, Goldberg says, adding that, for comparison, the rate in Swaziland is 38.6%. In addition, Brazil is "relentlessly" protecting patents of its growing and profitable industries, according to Goldberg. Supporters of a measure sponsored by Rep. Anne Northup (R-Ky.) that would prohibit trade agreements with provisions enforcing patent protections for medications are "aid[ing] and abett[ing] patent piracy," Goldberg writes. "Stripping the power of our government to enforce contracts in other countries makes patent protection worthless," Goldberg writes, concluding that Northup's measure "would make it easier for Brazil and other patent pirates to expand their thievery to other industries, undermining American competitiveness and job creation as they go" (Washington Times, 6/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.