Spending cutbacks in Brazil have the government once again threatening to strip AIDS drug patents if pharmaceutical companies do not cut prices, officials said Friday. The move seeks to protect Brazil's AIDS treatment program, which provides free drugs to about 135,000 AIDS patients in the country. Brazilian officials met with representatives from pharmaceutical companies Merck, Roche, and Abbott Laboratories, whose drugs make up 63% of the total program costs, according to Alexandre Grangeiro, AIDS program coordinator at the health ministry. The companies were told that they would need to cut the prices of the imported drugs or relax patents to allow the government's laboratory, Far-Manguinhos, to produce them locally. Should the pharmaceutical companies not agree, Brazil will either produce the drugs or import cheaper generic drugs from India. "Obviously, our intention is to reach an agreement with the industry," Grangeiro said.
Government spending restrictions have hit the AIDS budget for this year, with current funding about $20 million short of the needed amount. Brazilian officials plan to meet with the drug company representatives to discuss discounts again on August 12.