A patent request from the pharmaceutical company Gilead for its antiretroviral drug tenofovir was rejected by Brazil Wednesday, Reuters reports.
After announcing the decision, a Ministry of Health spokesperson confirmed a statement from the Patent Office that the request was rejected on the grounds that it "lacked technological inventiveness," according to Reuters. The decision means that Brazil now could import less expensive, generic versions of tenofovir because of World Trade Organization regulations (Grudgings, Reuters, 9/3).
The health ministry in April issued a decree signaling that it might reject Gilead's patent request. The decree declared that the drug is "in the public interest," adding that patenting the drug in Brazil would generate "expectations of monopoly rights with an impact on the price of the product." According to the health ministry, tenofovir accounts for 10% of the government's spending on its HIV/AIDS treatment program. The government provides antiretrovirals at no cost to people living with HIV/AIDS in Brazil. This year, 31,300 people in Brazil are expected to be treated with tenofovir at a cost of $1,387 per person. The annual cost per person for the 180,000 people included in Brazil's HIV/AIDS program is about $2,500 worth of medicines each year (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/14).
According to Reuters, Medecins Sans Frontieres in a statement said that HIV/AIDS drug access will increase in Brazil and across the developing world because of the patent rejection. Tido von Schoen-Angerer of MSF's Access to Essential Medicines campaign said that increased access to tenofovir is "absolutely crucial" and that Brazilian production of antiretrovirals has helped to reduce costs in the past. He added that MSF hopes "this will happen again." According to von Schoen-Angerer, a World Health Organization-approved Indian-made generic version of tenofovir costs $158 per person annually, compared with the $1,378 Gilead charges in Brazil. Gilead did not comment immediately on the decision (Reuters, 9/3).