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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004, 16:11 GMT
Brazil to break Aids drug patents
Image of pills and bottles
Brazil has offered free drugs since 1997
Brazil says it intends to break patents on commercial anti-Aids drugs as part of its battle against the disease.

The head of Brazil's Aids programme, Pedro Chequer, told the BBC it was the only way it could afford to keep up its anti-Aids strategy.

Mr Chequer said Brazil would make copies of up to five drugs next year.

Correspondents say Brazil has often threatened to produce drugs without the permission of the company holding the patent, but now looks set to do so.

Under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, a nation can break drug patents if there is a national emergency.

Brazil currently makes eight of the 15 drugs it offers in its anti-Aids cocktail, which is free to those with the disease.

Head of Brazil's Aids programme, Pedro Chequer
It's all a big agreement to keep developing nations hostage to the multinational industry
Pedro Chequer
Head of Brazil's Aids programme

Mr Chequer said that next year, the country hoped to be producing 12 or 13 of the drugs.

He did not say which patents would be broken.

"At the moment it is not easy because we are spending lots of money on acquiring drugs from multinationals. That kind of situation is unsustainable," he told the BBC's Brazilian service.

"Brazil's programme will not be sustainable as long as we don't have self-sufficiency in the provision of drugs."

Costs soared

In a separate interview on Tuesday, he accused major drug companies of collaborating to "keep developing nations hostage to the multinational industry".

Brazil began free drug provision in 1997 in an attempt to prevent the spread and impact of the disease among its young and sexually active population.

About 150,000 Brazilians receive free treatment - out of only 350,000 throughout the developing world.

The number of Brazilians living with HIV has remained at about 600,000 for several years.

But the cost of foreign imported drugs has soared, from about 50% to 85% of the Aids programme's cost.

Drugs fail to meet WHO standards for several reasons

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