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Soaring drug
costs jeopardize Brazil's free AIDS treatment

Soaring drug
costs jeopardize Brazil's free AIDS treatment

Brazil has offered free AIDS treatment to its citizens for the past decade, but the highly effective program could be bankrupted by soaring costs for new AIDS drugs, reports TheBoston Globe.

Prices for the new medicines have increased Brazil's spending more than 75% over the past two years. The new antiretrovirals are needed, as tens of thousands of patients have become resistant to the old antiretroviral drugs that are available in a cheaper generic form. The new drugs cost as much as $17,000 per person in Brazil, while the old generic drugs cost hundreds of dollars per patient every year.

Brazil's free treatment program cut AIDS deaths in Brazil by 50% to 11,000 in 2005 and inspired Thailand, Uganda, and other countries to provide free antiretrovirals. Today, 0.6% of Brazil's adult population has HIV, a rate of prevalence lower than in the United States.

The burgeoning debate among activists, pharmaceutical companies, and health officials in Brazil will have worldwide implications for intellectual property rights and AIDS treatments in rich and poor countries. Activists want Brazil's government to lower drug costs by making generics of drugs that are under patent. A 2001 World Trade Organization declaration permits any country to copy patented drugs if necessary to protect the public health. (The Advocate)

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