News Release

U.S. Decision on Brazil and AIDS Drugs: Global Implications?

With the Associated Press reporting Monday afternoon that “the United States has withdrawn a complaint with the World Trade Organization over a law used by Brazil to ensure cheap drugs to fight AIDS,” public health advocates are assessing the implications. The following policy analysts are available for interviews:

MARIA LUISA MENDONCA
Director of the Global Justice Center in Brazil, Mendonca said today: “As we saw in the U.S. case against South Africa, the U.S. and the drug companies didn’t have a case. Brazil was being challenged by the U.S. at WTO, but Brazil was actually following even the unfairly pro-patent WTO rules. Pressure from civil society seems to have helped compel the U.S. to back off this political case.” Mendonca, who two months ago appeared as a guest on the PBS “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” to discuss trade issues, can be interviewed in English.
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JAMIE LOVE
Director of the Consumer Project on Technology, Love said today: “The U.S. government should not insist on supervising a nation’s day-to-day administration of its patent laws…. We have to respect national sovereignty, and, in the case of Brazil, let Brazil continue its difficult and costly efforts to treat poor AIDS patients.”
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PAUL ZEITZ, M.D.
Co-director of the Global AIDS Alliance, Dr. Zeitz has worked for 10 years in Africa as a public health specialist. He said today: “The government of Brazil implemented a program to deliver anti-viral drugs to its population using generically manufactured drugs. This had a major effect in reducing AIDS.” Dr. Zeitz is at the current UN conference on AIDS.
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ARTUR KALICHMAN, M.D.
Dr. Kalichman is the coordinator of the Sao Paulo AIDS Program. In a statement to the Institute for Public Accuracy on Monday afternoon, responding to the U.S. government’s decision to drop its complaint, he said: “It’s very good news. Brazil wants to guarantee that our population will get the medicine. Our primary goal is not to fight against the United States or the pharmaceutical industry, but to guarantee the access of the population of the patients who need the drugs to get retroviral therapy at an affordable price…. When the prices of the medicines go down, Brazil will buy the medicines.” Dr. Kalichman, who has a master’s degree in public health, can be interviewed in English.

ROBERT WEISSMAN
Co-director of Essential Action and author of the article “Who Will Control the AIDS Fund?” in the current issue of The Nation, Weissman said today: “Whatever its motivations, the U.S. complaint against Brazil sent an outrageous message to the rest of the world: Authorizing compulsory licensing — even if never actually issuing a compulsory license — will get you in a legal tangle with the United States. The dismissal of the case that never should have been filed is therefore an enormous step forward. But only time, and the example of a country proceeding to issue a compulsory license without U.S. interference, will fully repair the damage.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167