Brazil has decided to buy a cheap generic version of the anti-AIDS drug Efavirenz from IndiaÂ rather than from the holder of the patent, the American company Merck.
Indian law allows drugs to be copied so long as the process is different from the original. It isÂ suggested that although India can provide cheap and effective drugs, exports are conspicuouslyÂ lower than they could be because poorer countries are scared of sanctions being applied by the USÂ Government. Brazil had been offered a discounted rate of $1.10 a pill instead of the current priceÂ of $1.59, but was seeking a price of $0.65. Now they will buy from India at $0.45 a pill. ThereÂ are procedures provided by the World Health Organization for taking such action under crisisÂ conditions, to be found under the Doha Declaration, and BrazilÂs decision has the backing of theÂ Nobel Peace Prize-winning ÂMedicins Sans FrontieresÂ.
The view of the drugs companies is understandably different. Although Merck will receive a smallÂ royalty for each Indian drug sold, this is considerably less than otherwise. They have issued aÂ warning that companies will be deterred from spending money on vital research and development ifÂ their returns are undermined in this way.