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BRAZIL THREATENS TO BREAK PATENT ON ANTI-AIDS DRUG UNLESS ABBOTT LABORATORIES LOWERS THE PRICE TO MAKE IT AFFORDABLE

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At a time when drug prices are soaring to the point where the average person can no longer afford them, the Brazilian government is actually threatening to do something about it.

Brazilian Health Minister Humberto Costa has announced that the price of the anti-AIDS drug Kaletra is so high that it poses a risk to public health. Thus, under Brazilian law, the government has the authority to ignore the patent held by U.S. based Abbott Laboratories in order to allow generic copies of the drug to be made in the country’s state-run lab in Rio de Janeiro.

Abbott has been given 10 days to cut the price of the drug to an affordable level for the 600,000 Brazilians who suffer from HIV/AIDS.

While Abbott claims it is already selling its drugs in Brazil at a financial loss and argues that the move would not be in the long-term best interests of patients, it has obviously flinched at the threat and has stated it is “willing to work with the government to find a mutually agreeable solution.”

Brazil has won international praise for its policy of providing free anti-retroviral drugs to anyone who needs them. By pressuring a major pharmaceutical company to lower its price, even on one important drug, Brazil may have set a precedent that will send a strong message to an industry that places profit above compassion.

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