Brazil breaks Merck patent

Another gantlet has been dropped in the cause of social activism as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)

Randall C Willis
LOS ANGELES—Another gantlet has been dropped in the cause of social activism as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) hails the announcement that the President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will issue a compulsory license for Merck's HIV/AIDS therapeutic STOCRIN (efavirenz). Despite repeated discussions between Merck and the Government of Brazil, the latter had been unable to convince the pharma giant to reduce the price of the drug from US$1.57 to $0.65.
 
"In announcing its intention to issue a compulsory license for Merck's AIDS drug efavirenz, Brazil is once again leading the way to affordable AIDS drug access for every nation," says Michael Weinstein, AHF president. "Today is a victory for AIDS activists and patients everywhere, and proof that drug companies will go down in defeat every time they place themselves in the way of justice for AIDS patients."
 
For its part, Merck vows to "remain flexible and committed" to finding a mutually beneficial solution, but worries that "this expropriation of intellectual property sends a chilling signal to research-based companies about the attractiveness of undertaking risky research on diseases that affect the developing world, potentially hurting patients who may require new and innovative life-saving therapies."
 
Along with several other industry heavyweights, Merck has warned about the dire consequences compulsory licensing will have on the R&D efforts of drug companies, suggesting that if this process becomes the norm, companies will think long and hard before starting exploration for a treatment for diseases that significantly impact developing-world countries.

Randall C Willis

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