Although many AIDS advocates are praising Brazil for its announcement that it will break Abbott Laboratories’ patent on Kaletra, property-rights advocates and the pharmaceutical industry are saying the move is “government-sanctioned piracy” of intellectual property
The Brazilian has threatened to break the antiretroviral drug patent unless Abbott lowers the drug’s price 42% to $1.17 per pill.
Brazilian Health Minister, Humberto Costa, on June 24, informed Abbott of its ultimatum regarding Kaletra.
Costa said 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.
The Brazilian Minister 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.
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.
These 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 São 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).
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”.
Kaiser Network – www.kaisernetwork.org