US AIDS Group Hails Brazil for Breaking Merck’s AIDS Drug Patent

Brazil produces some of its own AIDS drugs AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the US' largest provider of HIV/AIDS healthcare, education and prevention hailed the news that the President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, signed today a compulsory license for Merck's HIV/AIDS drug Efavirenz, freeing the country to buy a generic formula of the medication or produce it in its all state laboratories.

AHF also operates free AIDS treatment clinics in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. For them, Lula's move is seen as a victory for global AIDS activism and AIDS patients worldwide.

President Lula de Silva's decision comes after reports of a breakdown in negotiations between Brazil and the New Jersey based drug giant Merck. According to the country's health ministry, Brazil had asked Merck to cut the price of Efavirenz to 65 cents a pill from $1.57 and Merck had refused.

Brazil's decision to issue a compulsory license for the drug, which will allow the country to manufacture the drug or to buy generic versions, comes on the heels of Thailand's recent move to issue a compulsory license for Abbott's AIDS drug, Kaletra and in the lead-up to an AIDS Healthcare Foundation-hosted discussion regarding AIDS drug-pricing for Mexico, scheduled for June 4th in Mexico City.

"In announcing its intention to issue a compulsory license for Merck's AIDS drug Efavirenz, Brazil is once again leading the way to affordable AIDS drug access for every nation," added Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

"We salute the courage of countries such as Brazil, Thailand and Mexico who are fighting to ensure drug access for AIDS patients the world over. Today is a victory for AIDS activists and patients everywhere, and proof that drug companies will go down in defeat every time they place themselves in the way of justice for AIDS patients."

Flexibilities under the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement allow governments to issue compulsory licenses (including royalty payment to the patent owner) if the country deems it necessary and appropriate to protect the health of its citizens.

Brazil has been widely praised by global AIDS treatment activists for its government AIDS program, which provides free medication for anyone who needs it.

In the Latin American region, AIDS Healthcare Foundation operates free HIV/AIDS treatment clinics in Guatemala (Quetzaltenango) and in Mexico (Tijuana and Puerto Vallarta).

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