Brazil To Produce Generic Version of Merck’s Antiretroviral Efavirenz
Brazilian Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao on Wednesday said Brazil will begin producing a generic version of Merck's antiretroviral efavirenz, the AP/USA Today reports. Brazil in May 2007 issued a compulsory license to produce a lower-cost version of the drug after rejecting Merck's offer to sell the drug at a 30% discount, which would have lowered the price from $1.57 per dose to $1.10 per dose. Brazil had asked Merck to reduce the cost of efavirenz to 65 cents per dose (AP/USA Today, 9/17).
Brazil, which provides HIV/AIDS treatment to patients at no cost, has been importing a generic version of efavirenz from India since issuing the compulsory license. Four percent of the Ministry of Health's budget for antiretrovirals currently goes toward purchasing efavirenz, compared with 11% in 2006 when the country purchased the drug from Merck.
According to Reuters, the cost of the generic version Brazil will produce has not been determined, but Temporao said the cost would be similar to that of the generic version from India. Brazil's generic version of efavirenz is expected to be approved and available by early 2009, the health ministry said.
Temporao said that the announcement is a "historical mark for Brazil's pharmaceutical industry and Brazil's public health," adding that it "could be the basis for future innovative initiatives." Temporao said that the health ministry wants Brazil to be "treated and seen in a strategic way" by the pharmaceutical industry. According to Reuters, About 200,000 people in Brazil are receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS, 80,000 of whom take efavirenz (Nicolaci da Costa, Reuters, 9/17).