Brazilian Official at Latin American Conference on AIDS Calls for Countries to Break Patents, Self-Produce ARVs
Pedro Chequer, head of Brazil's HIV/AIDS program, on Thursday told attendees at a Latin American conference -- which was aimed at discussing strategies on providing access to treatments for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases -- that countries unable to afford antiretrovirals should consider breaking foreign patents and producing the drugs, the AP/Pravda.ru reports (AP/Pravda.ru, 1/13). Under the World Trade Organization's intellectual property agreement, governments can approve the domestic production of generic versions of patented drugs during emergency public health situations if they fail to reach an agreement with the patent holder (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/6/05). Chequer at the conference -- which took place in Brasilia, Brazil, and included representatives from 19 Latin American countries -- also said countries able to afford treatment should negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies, noting Brazil's experience with negotiating lower prices for HIV/AIDS drugs (AP/Pravda.ru, 1/13). In July 2005, Brazil's health ministry and Abbott Laboratories said they had reached an agreement for Abbott to keep the government's annual expenses on the company's antiretroviral drug Kaletra at current levels for the next six years and Brazil not to break Abbott's patent. However, Brazilian Health Minister Jose Saraiva Felipe dismissed the agreement and said the country would continue to negotiate for a lower price or country manufacturers would break Abott's patent and produce the drug for 41 cents per pill. Brazil in October 2005 reached an agreement with Abbott to lower the price of the company's antiretroviral drug Kaletra from $1.17 to 63 cents per pill to protect the drug's patent (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/12/05). Chequer at the conference said, "The alternative" to negotiating with pharmaceutical companies "is domestic production of the medication, preferably by the government," adding, "[W]e pay up to 9 times the fair price" (AP/Pravda.ru, 1/13). Chequer also voiced his support for countries that do not accept nonscientific opposition to condom usage, such as religious or philosophical debate (Xinhuanet, 1/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.