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<nettime> Brazil approves bill to free Aids drug patents
Felix Stalder on Sun, 5 Jun 2005 01:22:03 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Brazil approves bill to free Aids drug patents

[via: commons-law <commons-law {AT} sarai.net>]


Chamber of Deputies unanimously approves
parliamentary bill to free Aids drug patents

The Constitution, Justice and Citizenship
Commission of the Chamber of Deputies (CCJ)
unanimously approved, this Wednesday, Bill Number
22/03 submitted by Federal Deputy Roberto Gouveia
(PT-Sao Paulo). This Bill modifies Article 18 of
the Brazilian Patents Law (9.279/96), thereby
freeing Aids drugs, together with their
manufacturing processes, from patent coverage.
This will enable Brazilian manufacturing
laboratories to make such drugs.

Deputies from different political parties have
taken the view that public health interests as
well as those related to life itself take
precedence over industrial rights and they
therefore voted unanimously for the
constitutionality of the proposal put forward by
Deputy Roberto Gouveia. Deputy Antonio Carlos
Biscaia (PT-Rio de Janeiro), the Reporter for the
bill, explained that protection under the
Constitution of industrial inventions is "not
absolute", but conditional on the interests of
society as a whole. The Bill will now proceed to
the Federal Senate for appraisal.

Voting on the Bill in the CCJ was accompanied by
activists from all over Brazil, together with
representatives of the National STD/Aids Program.
Every time there was a vote cast in favor of the
Bill the activists responded with loud applause,
raising placards supporting approval of the Bill.
When the Table Chairman, Federal Deputy Jose
Mentor (PT-Sao Paulo), announced the end result
of the vote, Plenary Number 1 of the Annex to the
Chamber of Deputies witnessed emotional scenes.
Activists, parliamentarians and representatives
of the Federal Government embraced one another
and congratulated each other on the victory. A
number of them were moved to tears. Roberto
Gouveia was particularly touched by the outcome
of the vote and said he was confident that the
Senate would go ahead and approve the measure. He
said "the Bill will enter the Federal Senate with
strong backing, totally legitimized by all the
commissions that it has transited". Deputy
Gouveia added that the proposal does not fly in
the face of any international agreement. "On the
contrary", he declared, "we are doing what the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates.
We are acting in defense of life itself".

Laurinha Brelaz of the Manaus Friendship and
Solidarity Network considered that approval of
the Bill in the CCJ was an important landmark in
the struggle against the Aids epidemic. She
declared that "the Bill will make it possible to
manufacture cheaper medicines, therefore
increasing and ensuring access to treatment for
Aids patients". Laurinha went on to call
attention to the fact that the Bill still has to
go through the Senate and for that reason the
movement in its support   "must continue its
active role, otherwise the multinational drug
companies can try to bring influence to bear on
our Senators".

Currently, eight of the 16 antiretroviral drugs
used in Aids treatment and distributed through
the Public Health network in Brazil are under
patent protection. Over 70% of the amount spent
by the Ministry of Health on acquiring anti-Aids
drugs are in fact spent on only three of these
particular medicines. For the Director of the
Brazilian National STD/Aids Program, Dr Pedro
Chequer, approval of this Bill will mark a
watershed internationally and can open up new
negotiating possibilities. In Dr Chequer's words
"this crowns the Doha Declaration and is in line
with what the World Health Organization has been
extolling - that medical drugs for treating Aids
are a right of humanity".

The Bill was voted conclusively and now goes to
the Federal Senate. There is no requirement for
it to be submitted to the Chamber of Deputies
Plenary. If it is approved by the Senate with no
amendments, it will then be submitted to the
President of the Republic for ratification.

Communication Section
 National STD/Aids Program
 Ministry of Health

 The following is Roberto Gouveia's justification
and the original text of Bill  Number 22/03



 (submitted by Mr Roberto Gouveia)

 Covers the invention of medication for the
prevention and treatment of the Acquired
Immunodeficiency Syndrome SIDA/Aids and the
procedure for its procurement as non-patentable

 The National Congress decrees:

 ............................................... =20
ART. 18 of Law n.=BA 9.279, of 14 May 1996, comes into force with the follo=
additional clause IV:
 IV - the medication, together with its
respective procurement procedure, specifically
for the prevention and treatment of the Acquired
Immunodeficiency Syndrome SIDA/Aids,"
This law enters into force on the date of its publication.


 In homage to ex-Deputy  Eduardo Jorge, who no
longer graces the floor of the Federal
Legislature, we re-submit the following Bill that
was introduced at his initiative during the last
legislative period.

 An examination of  Law n.=BA 9.279/96 leads one to
the conclusion that the protection conferred
either directly or indirectly on the inventor of
the product or process in articles 42,44, 68, 69,
73 in a variety of measures, is so broad that in
many cases this results in economic or commercial
abuse under the aegis of the law itself.

 The industrial sector that is most well-placed
to proceed in this manner is, without doubt, the
advanced chemistry sector and most specifically
the drug industry. It is not by chance that the
"lobby" representing these pharmaceutical firms
is highly active in both Legislative and
Executive circles, as can be observed by the
actions aimed at delaying to the maximum the
application of Law No. 9787/99, known as the
Generics Law, or at bringing influence to bear on
governmental regulations for the application of
the same.

 At the present time, humanity is facing one of
the most serious health problems of all time -
the AIDS pandemic - which continues to spread and
to kill millions of people every year despite all
the scientific knowledge that has been
accumulated to date.  Currently, it is estimated
that there are 30 million people infected
throughout the world.  Of these around 22
millions are Africans living mainly in the poor
countries to the south of the Sahara. The 9th
June 1999 edition of 'Veja' magazine tells of the
drama through which that continent is passing.
Some excerpts from that article are reproduced
below as illustration:

 "In the heart of Africa a time-bomb is ticking
away. This will kill more that 22 million men,
women and children over the coming decade.  This
figure is 200 times greater than all the victims
of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in
1945. Or 100 times more than the total of deaths
that occurred during the Vietnam War. (...) Since
the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the early
1980s, 11.5 million people have died in southern
Africa as victims of the AIDS epidemic - a number
almost equal to the population of the city of Sao
Paulo.  (...) In Sub-Saharan Africa in 1997, 1.5
million children were orphaned as the result of
AIDS - almost 90% of the world total (...) Not
even the richest country in Africa was spared the
many deaths arising from the epidemic. In little
over ten years, South Africa saw 2.9 million
cases of AIDS emerge from almost zero, leaving a
sad trail of 360.000 deaths in their wake.  (...)
South Africa, with its diamond and gold mines,
has an annual budget of approximately 10 million
dollars to deal with AIDS but this is not
sufficient even to pay fo  the AZT required to
reduce the chances of contaminated pregnant women
passing the infection onto their babies."

 The government of that country is not resigned
and does not feel that it has its hands tied in
its endeavor to try and revert the calamitous
situation. Two years ago, a law was introduced
that allows local firms to produce generic
versions of patented anti-AIDS drugs or to import
them from countries where they are cheaper. As
can be expected, a range of reactions has been
forthcoming from the multinational drug
companies.  As journalist Philip Shenon, in an
article in "The NewYork Times", and published in
Portuguese in Brazil, says:

 "The United States drug industry, with the help
of the Clinton administration, is trying to
protect its patents, preventing developing
countries that are suffering from the AIDS
epidemic from producing generic versions of
certain drugs which at present are too expensive
for the majority of victims outside the United
States. The drug companies are alarmed at the
efforts being made by South Africa to allow local
firms to produce generic versions of patented
anti-AIDS drugs or to import such medicines from
countries where they can obtain them more
cheaply. (...) As the result of a series of legal
battles in South Africa, American companies have
succeeded to date in blocking the law that was
introduced two years ago aimed at reducing the
price of anti-AIDS drugs and that would have
enabled them to be manufactured locally or
imported without the permission of the owners of
the patents. (...) In the United States, these
drugs can cost an individual patient over US$ 10
thousand a year. The drugs are sold in South
Africa for a similar price.  (...)"

 Brazil   has around  600,000 carriers of  the
AIDS virus,  HIV. According to a World Bank
forecast, back in the 1980s, Brazil was likely to
have 1.2 million people infected by the year
2000.  The 597,000 carriers include people who
have already developed AIDS and actual deaths are
excluded. Unlike the notifications of AIDS cases,
the figures covering people with HIV are

 In these circumstances, we cannot accept
passively the exorbitant   prices imposed on both
the infected people and the public coffers of the
drugs that are used specifically for treating
AIDS. The Bill that is now before you has the
same aim as the law passed in South Africa - that
is, the possibility for local industries to
produce interchangeable medical drugs.
Interchangeable drugs are those that are the
therapeutic equivalent of the innovative or
reference drug. Our country needs to treat its
sick people in the most efficient way possible.
If local firms are permitted to manufacture
generic versions, and no doubt the selling price
will be lower than that of the branded drugs,
this will lead to greater efficiency in the
future: less expensive medicines, lower public
health outgoings and more jobs available.

 Federal Deputy PT

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