Two Nations Unite on AIDS Care: Argentina, Brazil Vow to Make Generic Drugs
August 25, 2005
This week, the health ministers of Argentina and Brazil announced a plan to work together in producing generic AIDS drugs. While providing little information about the agreement, including how soon production might begin, the two countries will start by sharing information and technology and by bringing experts together, officials said.
But some wonder whether Argentina and Brazil intend to break international patents, many of which are held by U.S. firms, and use their partnership to produce generic versions of the most effective and expensive AIDS drugs. Gines Gonzalez Garcia, Argentina's minister of health and environment, told the Buenos Aires daily Clarin, "Without prejudice to our understanding of the international rules of the game, what comes first are the interests of the citizens of each country."
Brazil's newly appointed health minister, Jose Saraiva Felipe, was more blunt: "We are going to conduct ourselves in accordance with the public interest. There is no predisposition to gratuitously violate intellectual property, but if Brazil goes so far as to develop medicines, especially antiretrovirals, we could come to adopt this attitude."
In the past, Brazil, which provides free AIDS treatment to its citizens, has won price reductions from multinational pharmaceutical companies partly by developing its own technology and capacity. Brazil is currently locked in a price battle with Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories over its AIDS drug Kaletra. The two parties appeared to have reached a deal last month, but after Saraiva Felipe took office he said no agreement was made and pressed Abbott for further discounts. Abbott submitted a revised pricing proposal to Brazil last week, the company said.
Gabriela Hamilton, director of Argentina's HIV/AIDS program, said the accord should not be viewed as just another aspect of a negotiating strategy. "It's downplaying this to say the agreement is only to negotiate prices," she said, adding the two countries will work together on medicines to treat other diseases as well.
08.25.2005; Colin McMahon
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.