Health GAP Statement on Brazil's Intention to Issue a Compulsory License for Nelfinavir

August 22, 2001

Asia Russell: +1 267.475.2645
Paul Davis: +1 215.833.4102

In the first move by any developing country, Brazil today issued the world's first compulsory license. Brazil broke a Hoffman la Roche patent in Brazil on nelfinavir, a powerful anti-HIV drug of the protease inhibitor class.

The Brazilian move comes just before the WTO's TRIPS Council convenes on September 19 to address the conflict between health and patents, and just two months after the United States Trade Representative withdrew its WTO dispute against Brazil's patent laws.

"By issuing a compulsory license on nelfinavir, Brazil is forcing a crowbar into a crack in the dam," stated Health GAP Coalition member Paul Davis from ACT UP. "We look forward to a flood of broken patents in developing countries being decimated by AIDS, and applaud Brazil's strong stands against the US Trade Representative."

"Maintaining monopolies on medicine for poor countries during a worldwide health catastrophe is unethical and immoral," continued Davis.

Brazil's widely heralded AIDS program has been more successful than any other developing country, with rates of death and rates of new infection plummeting by over 50% since 1997 with the introduction of affordable locally manufactured AIDS drugs. Brazil makes the medicines available for free to all people with AIDS, in both rural and urban areas.

However, the USTR reserved the right to reinstate its WTO dispute with Brazil. Brazil also continues to be on the USTR's '301 list' of countries facing bilateral trade sanctions.

"The ball is now in the U.S. Trade Representative's court. If Robert Zoellick uses the economic might of the United States to crush Brazil's WTO-legal efforts to save lives, there is going to be hell to pay when the TRIPS Council convenes on September 19 to resolve the conflicts between patents and health." said Davis. "The USTR is already far out on a limb at the TRIPS Council."

The TRIPS Council is the WTO body that administers intellectual property provisions of multilateral trade agreements. At the last meeting in June, over 40 member countries spoke against the extremist position of the United States against the exportation of affordable generic medicines manufactured under compulsory license.

Compulsory licensing for export represents a significant way to provide access to crucial mediations. For example, if a country such as Zambia were to issue a compulsory license, a company in Brazil or India should be able to manufacture and export the medicines to Zambia. The USTR is pushing an interpretation of international trade agreements that would require Zambia, and any other nation in need, to build factories for every medicine needed to combat health crises.

"Every country is not Brazil, and does not have the same pre-existing industrial capacity to manufacture medicines. Robert Zoellick is pushing to render the safeguards in TRIPS meaningless for poor countries," stated Health GAP member Asia Russell, also from ACT UP Philadelphia. "To do this while a global AIDS disaster rages is unacceptable. Ambassador Zoellick will hear from us when he is addressing big-business sponsors in Philadelphia on September 17."

On September 17 in Philadelphia, Zoellick will address the annual meeting of the Corporate Council on Africa, a U.S. based lobby group for multinational corporations. The TRIPS Council meets to create resolutions for the Doha Ministerial in Geneva on September 19.

In the meantime, the US continues to issue own compulsory licenses for non-essential needs. One of the recent compulsory licenses issued by the U.S. government covered tow-truck technologies.

Paul Davis
Health GAP Coalition
ACT UP Philadelphia

+1.215.474.6886 direct tel.
+1.215.474.4793 fax
+1.215.731.1844 ACT UP

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