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Brazil threatens action over AIDS drugs

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by Brian Turner
Brazil threatens action over AIDS drugs

Brazil is threatening to break the patent on an anti-retroviral drug for the treatment of AIDS if Abbot Laboratories, the holder of the patent, will not lower the price of the drug.

At the same time, the Brazilian government is in talks with two other US drug companies, Merck and Gilead Sciences, over the prices of their AIDS drugs.

Brazilian health minister Humberto Costa has said that if those companies will not cut the prices on their drugs, Brazil might break the patents on them as well.

Mr. Costa insisted that if Brazil does take this action, it will do so because it is in the “public interest.”

An official of a US industry lobby, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, called the threat “troubling”, and Abbot Laboratories said that if Brazil begins to manufacture the drug itself, there could be a negative impact on the development of new drugs to treat not only AIDS but all diseases.

The World Trade Organization allows countries to break patents in circumstances of national emergency, but critics of Brazil’s potential move say that isn’t the case here and that Brazil is spending less on drugs to treat AIDS than it was five years ago.

Brazil wants Abbot to cut the price on the drug in question, Kaltera, by 42 percent. Abbot charges $1.17 per pill for the drug, but Brazil claims that a state owned laboratory could sell the drug for 68 cents per pill.

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News posted: June 27, 2005

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