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AIDS: Break Patents If Need Be, Says Brazil to Other LatAm Countries

Latin American countries that can’t afford increasingly expensive AIDS medication should consider sidestepping foreign patent holders and manufacturing the drugs themselves, a top health official said Thursday.

"The alternative … is domestic production of the medication, preferably by the government," Brazilian AIDS program head Pedro Chequer said in an interview with government news agency Radiobrás. "Today we pay up to nine times the fair price."

According to World Trade Organization rules, countries can issue licenses to disregard patent rights after negotiating with the patent owners and paying them adequate compensation. But governments that declare a public health emergency can skip the negotiating.

At the start of a three-day conference on regional AIDS prevention, Chequer told delegates from 19 Latin American countries that Brazil itself is pressuring pharmaceutical companies to reduce the price of AIDS medication.

But nations that can’t afford expensive foreign drugs should consider breaking foreign patents, he added.

In recent years, Brazil has negotiated lower AIDS drug prices by threatening to break patents, without ever actually doing so.

In October, after just such a threat, Brazil reached a deal with Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories Inc. to lower the price on the AIDS drug Kaletra.

Pravda – www.pravda.ru

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