July 4, 2007 / 1:43 PM / 12 years ago

Brazil says Abbott to cut price of AIDS drug

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil’s health ministry said Wednesday that Abbott Laboratories Inc. agreed to cut the price of its Kaletra AIDS drug by 29.5 percent.

The lower price for the drug, also known as lopinavir and ritonavir, will help Brazil supply free drugs for its AIDS treatment program.

In May, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva authorized Brazil for the first time to break the patent on an AIDS drug, one made by Merck & Co.. It then started importing a generic version of the drug Efavirenz from India.

Under WTO rules, countries can issue a “compulsory license” to manufacture or buy generic versions of patented drugs deemed critical to public health.

Drug makers often reduce prices to keep countries as clients and avoid compulsory licenses.

Brazil provides free universal access to AIDS drugs and distributes condoms and syringes free as part of a prevention program lauded by the United Nations.

The program helped Brazil slow infection rates and avoid what experts said would become an AIDS epidemic. Infection rates among adults have stabilized at levels similar to those in the United States.

But government spending on anti-retroviral drugs doubled in four years to nearly 1 billion reais (US$495 million) in 2005, according to a Brazilian report for the United Nations.

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