Drug Costs Threaten Brazil’s Free AIDS Treatment Program

The rising costs of new antiretroviral drugs is jeopardizing Brazil’s ten-year-old program that provides free AIDS treatment to every citizen.

Although more than half of the people living with HIV in Latin America live in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, Brazil’s universal treatment program cut HIV-related hospitalizations by 80 percent and only 0.6 percent of the adult population is now infected with HIV.

New drugs cost as much as $17,000 per patient per year in Brazil, while old drugs cost as little as hundreds of dollars per year. The new drugs are necessary because of patients developing resistance to older antiretrovirals.

Avtivists are urging the Brazilian government to make generic versions of drugs still under patent—something that multinational drug companies hope to avoid.

"Governments can approve the domestic production of generic versions of patented drugs during emergency public health situations if they fail to reach an agreement with the patent holder (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/14/06)."

"People are fighting for their lives and are entitled to the best possible treatment," Mariângela Simão, director of the National AIDS program told The Boston Globe.