Print

Print


>From the latest issue of Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by:


          WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE ON THE AMERICAS
             ISSUE #576, FEBRUARY 11, 2001
  NICARAGUA SOLIDARITY NETWORK OF GREATER NEW YORK
         339 LAFAYETTE ST., NEW YORK, NY 10012
             (212) 674-9499 <[log in to unmask]>




*10. BRAZIL: US THREATENS ANTI-AIDS PROGRAM

On Jan. 8 the US asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to form
a dispute panel--in effect, a trade court--to rule on its dispute
with Brazil over patents for drugs used in Brazil's ambitious
AIDS treatment program. Under a Brazilian intellectual property
law (Law No. 9.279 of May 14, 1996), a foreign pharmaceutical
company forfeits patent rights to a product after three years if
the company does not begin to manufacture the product in Brazil
during that time. The United States argues that the law violates
WTO rules.

Brazil has won international praise for its anti-AIDS campaign,
which has included free distribution of combinations of drugs
known as antiretrovirals to about 100,000 Brazilians infected
with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. At least 580,000 Brazilians
are either HIV-positive or have AIDS, but the number of new cases
has stabilized, and the number of AIDS-related deaths has fallen
sharply. To a large extent, Brazil has been able to afford the
program because it manufactures its own generic drugs locally
under Law 9.279; over half the anti-AIDS program's $300 million
annual budget goes to pay for four drugs that are imported.

In what was generally seen as a retaliation for the US trade
dispute, on Feb. 8 Health Minister Jose Serra announced that
Brazil would license local production of two drugs--efavirenz,
sold by New Jersey-based Merck & Co., and nelfinavir, owned by
Switzerland's Hoffman-La Roche Inc. and the New York-based Pfizer
Inc.--unless the manufacturers agree to a 50% price reduction by
June.

James Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, a
Washington-based consumer group, charges that the US is targeting
Brazil because the Brazilians are "going around touting their
model" for fighting AIDS "and the big drug companies are going
ballistic because of that." The International Gay and Lesbian
Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is asking for letters to US
Trade Representative Robert Zoellick (600 17th Street, NW,
Washington, DC 20508) to "[i]nsist that the US desist from any
formal or informal actions which may pressure the government of
Brazil to abandon its successful and life-saving responses to the
HIV/AIDS crisis." [IGLHRC Action Alert 2/6/01; Washington Post
2/6/01; Financial Times (London) 2/9/01]