European activists support Brazil’s access to affordable antiretrovirals

European AIDS Treatment Group
Brussels/Rio de Janeiro

“Countries have the right to save lives – compulsory licensing and domestic generic production of ARVs are the way forward for Brazil”, says the EATG.

In June 2005, Brazil’s Ministry of Health issued a decree declaring lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra) from Abbott Laboratories a Public Interest Medicine. This decision was based on World Trade Organization (WTO) guidelines. The Ministry of Health also sent Abbott a letter with a ten-day deadline, allowing the company to propose a price reduction for Kaletra to match Brazil’s domestic generic production cost and a technology transfer of its manufacturing process in order to avoid compulsory licensing.

After weeks of negotiating Health Ministry officials announced on July 8 an agreement with Abbott on a gradual price reduction up to 2010, based on a projected increase of patients on Kaletra from around 23 to 60 thousands but without an indication of the cost per pill. Additionally, according to local Abbott officials and contrary to the government’s interpretation of the deal, the company would start the technology transfer from 2012 onwards, only 3 years before the patent expires in Brazil.

Fortunately, a week later, the newly appointed Minister of Health, Mr. José Saraiva Felipe, renounced the deal negotiated by his predecessor because of the insufficient cost reductions and the delay in the technology transfer.

“The deal left a lot to be desired and would have been a lost opportunity. It was very advantageous to Abbott and potentially detrimental to patients. The agreement would pose a risk for preferential prescription towards Kaletra in situations where other compounds may offer better treatment options”, says Wim Vandevelde, Board member of the European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG). “We denounce the continued monopoly protection and the commercial vision that was displayed in this agreement as well as the lack of substantial short-term price reductions which can be obtained through domestic production.”

Last month, a New York Times editorial highlighted that the WTO rules encourage its members to use the flexibilities in the intellectual property rules to promote access to medicine for all. Countries need not wait for an emergency. Brazil's free universal treatment program locks Brazil's government into buying lifelong daily medicines for 170,000 people and that number is rising. Brazil has the right to make sure it can continue to meet this burden by getting medicines at the cheapest possible price.

Breaking patents should be reserved for when it is necessary to protect public health. Only a handful of countries so far have used WTO rules to break patents on medicines. History shows that it has been mainly the United States that has issued compulsory licenses on medicines, Bayer’s Cipro being the most famous in the case of anthrax. Recently, countries have been intimidated by the United States. Health ministers who propose making copycat drugs are usually silenced by influential local business sectors afraid of trade retaliation.

David Haerry, Chair of the European Community Advisory Board (ECAB), says “the EATG believes that compulsory licensing and domestic generic production of lopinavir/ritonavir is the only way forward for Brazil in order to obtain a significant price reduction which will in turn also create more alternatives for other low and middle-income countries to ensure second-line ARVs for all patients in need.”

The EATG supports the demands made by the local AIDS activists at today’s manifestation during the opening session of the IAS Conference in Rio de Janeiro and asks all drug companies who refuse to sell high volumes of AIDS treatments at the lowest possible prices to get out of the way so that generic companies can do so.

For more information, please contact:

Nikos Dedes
EATG, Chair, (English, Greek)
at +306 944 386 560 or at

Wim Vandevelde
EATG, Board member, (English, Portuguese, Dutch)
at +351 91 727 52 43 or at

David Haerry
ECAB, Chair, (English, German, French)
at +41 79 712 57 59 or at

Joan Tallada
EATG, External Communications Officer, (Spanish, English)
at +34 637 464 803 or at

About the EATG.

Founded in 1991 as a co-operative structure of people from different nationalities and communities affected by HIV in Europe, the EATG is a non-profit organisation registered under German law, with its secretariat in Brussels, Belgium.

Since its establishment the EATG has been at the forefront of the development of the civil society response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Europe. The EATG has members from 29 different European countries involved in 58 local NGO’s and related to 36 community networks.

The mission of the EATG is to enable people with HIV or at risk of HIV infection and their advocates to provide significant input into the process of developing, testing and approving HIV treatments; to advocate for best practices of care and treatment for all persons living with HIV/AIDS; to advocate for the rapid introduction of existing and new HIV treatments; to promote the availability of appropriate information about HIV treatments for people with HIV, their health care providers, and health policy makers; to advocate for changes in legislation and patent law as well as for the medical evaluation of generic medicines; and to advocate for changes in legislation and policies affecting the health, rights and quality of life of people with HIV.

In reaching its objectives the EATG has committed itself to be democratic, accountable, transparent and accessible to people living with HIV and their advocates, taking into account diversity of gender, religion, culture and beliefs. The EATG is funded with both public grants and private donations.

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