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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 04:35 GMT
Brazil's Aids policy 'remarkable'
By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

FarManguinhos drug production facility in Brazil (Photograph by Amy Nunn)
Brazil saves money by producing cheaper versions of Aids drugs
Bargaining with pharmaceutical firms to bring down the price of Aids drugs and producing cheap generic versions has saved Brazil $1bn, a study has shown.

Infection rates in the Latin American country have been kept at a similar level to the US, the report finds.

And more than 180,000 Brazilians have access to Aids treatment.

Brazil's achievement is described as "remarkable", in the study published by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States.

Brazil's policy for dealing with HIV and Aids has long been widely admired for its commitment to effective treatment combined with an aggressive promotion of the safe sex message.

In 1996 it became the first developing country to commit to providing free and universal access to Aids drugs.

Broken patent

Now a study published in the Public Library of Science journal by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests the policy has saved Brazil around $1bn between 2001 and 2005.

Image of pills and bottles (generic)
Brazil has provided free access to Aids drugs since 1996

By threatening to produce cheaper generic versions of existing drugs, the government has repeatedly persuaded companies to reduce their prices.

Earlier this year Brazil broke the patent on the Aids drug Efavirenz and decided to import a cheaper version from India.

Drugs companies have warned that action like this would only discourage them from carrying out the expensive research needed to improve the drugs required to treat HIV.

Brazil says the decision was taken in the public interest, which is why it also produces generic versions of eight drugs that do not have patents.

To some extent the policy has been a victim of its own success, with the new research suggesting drug costs rose rapidly as treatment was provided to more people who were also living longer.

Researchers also say other developing countries are now proving more successful in producing cheaper generic Aids drugs and Brazil, which once led the way with this approach, needs to be more aggressive.

SEE ALSO
Brazil gets cut-price Aids drug
05 Jul 07 |  Americas
Brazil to break Aids drug patent
04 May 07 |  Americas
Thailand takes on drugs giants
26 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
New Aids drugs 'soaring in cost'
01 Dec 06 |  Special Reports
Brazil reaches drug patent deal
09 Jul 05 |  Americas

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