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Friday, 30 March, 2001, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
Brazil wins AIDS drugs fight

The Brazilian authorities say they have persuaded the United States pharmaceutical company, Merck, to reduce the price in Brazil of two drugs used to treat AIDS.

Health officials said Merck agreed to cut the prices by more than fifty per cent in return for a promise from Brazil not to break the company's patents by manufacturing its own versions of the drugs.

The two drugs form part of a cocktail of medicines which the Brazilian government distributes free to patients as part of its campaign against AIDS.

Officials said the deal would save the ministry about thirty-nine million dollars a year -- almost ten percent of its AIDS drug budget. Brazilian law allows the government to disregard patents on drugs if the price is judged to be too high or if the manufacturer fails to produce the drug in Brazil within three years.

So far, Brazil produces generic versions of more than half of the twelve drugs used in the anti-AIDS cocktail.

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