E-drug: Merck price cuts not for Brazil or some other countries
In this article Merck's offer sounds not the same as they claim in
their press release yesterday which said:
"Merck & Co., Inc. announced today that effective immediately, it is
lowering its prices in developing countries for CRIXIVAN (indinavir
sulfate) and STOCRIN (efavirenz), the Company's two antiretroviral
medicines for the treatment of HIV infection. At these new prices,
Merck will not profit from the sale of these medicines in the
In the press release there was no indication that the offer would not
extend to "quite a few other countries".
I would particularly like to know which countries in Subsaharan
Africa will be excluded from the offer. Is South Africa excluded?
It might be helpful if Merck would post a list of countries that may
benefit from the offer.
Ellen 't Hoen
MSF Access to Essential Medicines Campaign
Wednesday March 7, 4:58 pm Eastern Time
Merck says AIDS drugs price cuts not for Brazil
By Shasta Darlington
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, March 7 (Reuters) - U.S. drugmaker Merck and
Co Inc. (NYSE:MRK - news) said on Wednesday that it is not yet
extending to Brazil the deep discounts on two AIDS drugs that it
announced earlier for countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Merck said it would offer the drugs at no profit to ``developing
countries,'' fueling hopes that the discounts would be extended to
Brazil, which plans to violate Merck's patent and start producing at
least one of those drugs by June if the price does not come down.
``Those prices that were released today are not applicable to Brazil
as they are not (applicable) to quite a few other countries,'' said
Marcos Levy, director of corporate affairs at Merck's Brazil unit. He
said they are being extended to some, but not necessarily all,
countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
``We are in the process of trying to negotiate a price with the
government of Brazil that would be good for them and good for us,'' he
said, adding that Merck hoped to announce the new price by the
beginning of next week.
Brazil, with a controversial law allowing it to manufacture AIDS drugs
under certain conditions, has made it a model in the global AIDS
fight, but has also earned it the ire of the pharmaceutical industry
which is trying to punish Brazil at the World Trade Organization
Merck said for sub-Saharan Africa, it will cut the price of Crixivan
to $600 per patient per year -- the first protease inhibitor to be
offered at such deep discounts -- while Stocrin will be offered at
After meeting with Merck representatives in Brasilia, the director of
the state-owned Brazilian laboratory producing AIDS drugs said she
urged the company to extend the same prices to Latin America's largest
``The price is fantastic, it's half of what we pay for generics from
India,'' said Eloan dos Santos Pinheiro. ``If we could get that price
there would be no need to produce the drugs here.''
PATENTS AT RISK
After months of stalled negotiations, Brazil threatened to start
producing the generic version of Stocrin, (efavirenz) and
another drug in June if pharmaceutical companies don't drop prices.
Brazil would be allowed to violate the patents under a local law that
requires foreign firms to manufacture drugs -- or any other patented
product -- within Brazil or lose exclusive rights to a local
competitor after three years.
Still, Levy warned that Brazil will not likely see the same discount
as sub-Saharan Africa. ``You have countries that have no resources at
all and countries that have some appreciable degree of resources.
Brazil is in the category of countries that have some very appreciable
resources,'' he said.
In absolute numbers, Brazil suffers from a high rate of AIDS infection
with 190,000 cases of registered HIV cases, and 500,000 suspected
cases. But it has become a model in the AIDS fight with only 0.6
percent of the adult population infected.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 25.3 million people are living with HIV-AIDS,
according to the United Nations and in Botswana, 35.8 percent of the
population is infected.
Merck's decision comes as the pharmaceutical industry is embroiled in
a fierce battle with the government of South Africa over access to
cheap drugs, but could also be a result of pressure from Indian
generics and threats from countries like Brazil to violate patents.
Starting in 1996, Brazil's government started making drugs to treat
AIDS as part of its policy of free treatment for all patients. Brazil
now legally makes eight of the 12 drugs used in the so-called AIDS
As a result, AIDS drug prices have plummeted more than 70 percent, but
prices on those like efavirenz that do not face competition from
locally produced versions have remained high.
A typical treatment in Brazil costs about $4,400 compared to between
$12,000 and $15,000 in the United States.
But as Brazil stepped up pressure on remaining drugs, the United
States submitted a request to the WTO to set up a dispute panel to
examine charges that Brazil's patent law discriminates against
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