AIDS Advocates, Property-Rights Advocates Disagree Over Brazil’s Threat To Break Antiretroviral Patents
Although many AIDS advocates and humanitarian groups are praising the Brazilian government for its announcement last month that it will break Abbott Laboratories' patent on the antiretroviral drug Kaletra on Thursday unless the company lowers the drug's price 42% to 68 cents per pill from its current price of $1.17 per pill, property-rights advocates and the pharmaceutical industry are saying the move is "government-sanctioned piracy" of intellectual property, the AP/Washington Times reports (Clendenning, AP/Washington Times, 7/4). Brazilian Health Minister Humberto Costa on June 24 informed Abbott of its ultimatum regarding Kaletra, saying that 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. Costa has said it would take about one year for Brazil to establish facilities to produce and test a generic version of Kaletra for efficacy and safety, and Brazil also is negotiating price reductions for Merck's efavirenz and Gilead's tenofovir (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/28).
AIDS advocates say that WTO instituted the intellectual property exceptions to allow governments to make the types of decisions Brazil is making on Kaletra, and they are hoping that other countries such as India and China will follow Brazil's lead in threatening to break patents. Advocates also hope Brazil will take steps to export generic antiretrovirals to other developing countries. "We are the hostages of these companies, and compulsory licensing is a defense against the abuse of monopolies," Jorge Beloqui, head of an AIDS support group based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, said. However, critics say the Brazilian government is using sympathy for HIV-positive people to rob profits from pharmaceutical companies. Eric Noehrenberg, director of international trade and market for the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, said many pharmaceutical companies that have invested heavily in Brazil might consider pulling out of the country if it breaks Abbott's patent on Kaletra. "Companies are looking very hard at their presence in Brazil in light of these circumstances," Noehrenberg said (AP/Washington Times, 7/4).
U.S. Business Group Urges Brazil To Drop Ultimatum
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization representing more than three million businesses worldwide, is urging the Brazilian government to drop its threat to break the patent on Kaletra, The Hill reports (Rodeffer, The Hill, 7/6). "Brazil's threat to strip patent rights from a U.S. company should concern all investors and every business around the world because of the precedent it sets for the treatment of intellectual property," Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue said, adding, "While we share the Brazilian government's concern for the well-being of its citizens suffering from this terrible disease, the way to deal with this situation is through dialogue and partnership, not through threats. U.S. companies have always been willing to explore different possibilities with the government of Brazil to provide support to the national AIDS program" (Chamber release, 7/1).