US PROPERTY RIGHTS GROUP CONFIDENT BRAZIL WILL RESPECT PATENTS ON ARVS

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US-based public interest group Defenders of Property Rights (DPR) is confident that Brazil's government will back away from threats to seize patents on a number of HIV/AIDS drugs developed by US companies.

The body revealed its optimism after Brazil's Health Minister announced to the country's National Council on Health that levels of HIV/AIDS in the country were "under control." Industry sources claim that this contradicts the frequent protestations of the Brazilian government that the country was in the midst of a health emergency concerning the deadly disease.

This is a crucial distinction, as under World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulations, countries can only break patents on drugs in the event of medical emergency. It was under such premises that Brazil threatened to begin producing its own generic version of Abbott Laboratories' anti-retroviral (ARV) Kaletra. Eventually a deal was negotiated in which Abbott reduced the price for Kaletra by 46%.

However, US commentators claimed that Brazil's HIV/AIDS rate was 1%, the same as in the US, and that compulsory licenses were therefore unwarranted. They further alleged that Brazil was appropriating US technology to aid its own drug export sector.

The DPR has been fighting the Brazilian government over intellectual property (IP) violations for a year and has recently run a full-page advertisement in the Washington Times in order to call public attention to the issue. According to the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), Brazilian IP abuse cost US firms US$900mn in 2003.