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Brazil Says it Will Break AIDS Drug Patents

Brazilian lawmakers have approved a project authorizing the government to break patents on certain drugs for treating AIDS. Brazil already produces eight of the 15 drugs in its federally funded anti-AIDS program.

The measure will allow local pharmaceutical companies to make generic versions of drugs used to treat people infected with HIV/AIDS. Brazil provides those drugs free to anyone who needs them, but the government is concerned about the rising costs of the drugs.

Brazil has won praise for its efforts to prevent the spread of AIDS, and according to Brazilian Federal Deputy Roberto Gouveia, the decision to block or break patents is part of that effort.

Mr. Gouveia says, "We consider this move fundamental to maintain Brazil's program for controlling AIDS."

He also says the decision to break company patents does not violate international accords, because global patent regulations stipulate a patent can be broken for the benefit of public health.

For years, Brazil's Ministry of Health has been battling with pharmaceutical companies for a reduced price on AIDS drugs for Brazil's federal AIDS treatment program.

Brazil began distributing free AIDS drugs in late 1997 to combat its spread. Eight years later, Brazil is recognized and lauded as a world leader in the fight against AIDS.

Brazil is already producing eight of the 15 drugs for its federally funded anti-AIDS cocktail.

An estimated 150,000 Brazilians receive the drugs under the government program. However, 600,000 Brazilians are thought to have AIDS and HIV.

This week's decision by lawmakers means the patents on five more of the drugs will likely be broken by some time next year.

Brazil has a history of taking a principled, and sometimes controversial, stance, when it comes to its national AIDS treatment program.

Last month, Brazil turned down more than $40 million in aid from the United States to combat AIDS and HIV, because it would not oppose the commercial sex industry as the United States stipulated, in order to receive the money.