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Brazil Government In Contention With Merck Over Anti-AIDS Drug

The Brazil government is up against giant drug manufacturers- Merck &Co. The issue in contention is the pricey anti-AIDS drug Efavirenz. According to the Brazilian government, there is no call to charge as much as 1.59 US dollars for a 600mg pill when Thailand is paying 65 cents for the same.

Negotiations between Merck and the Brazilian government began last November. Last week the government declared the drug a public interest one. This means that Merck has just a few days to make the best out of a sticky situation. It will have to settle for a lower price of the drug or else face the chances of the drug being stripped of its patent or a compulsory license issued against it.

Meanwhile the Thai government has made a move dubbed a lifesaver, by its AIDS activists- the government has stripped the patents of three anti-AIDS drugs. In response to this, the United States has placed Thailand on a list of copyright violators .In Bangkok, AIDS activists rallied outside the U.S. Embassy on Thursday protesting the decision.

Meanwhile in Brazil, the government has already refused a discount by 30 percent of the drug. Said Merck spokeswoman Amy Rose: We at Merck were disappointed to have had what we consider to be a fair offer rejected by the government of Brazil. "We remain flexible, open and committed to the negotiations", she added.

The matter now will be referred to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's chief of staff who will decide whether to issue the compulsory license and allow Brazil to manufacture the drug or to buy generic versions while paying Merck a small royalty.

Efavirenz is the drug most widely used by Brazil's anti-AIDS program, which provides free medication for anyone who needs it. Currently 75,000 of the 180,000 Brazilians who receive the free cocktail of anti-AIDS drug use efavirenz.

Victims of AIDS in the United States, who are so disabled by the disorder that they have to be placed under in-house medical care, are meanwhile protesting against discrimination. In the journal Public Health Reports, journalists say that almost half of transitional housing residents report that they have experienced discrimination while dealing with the health care system.

Says lead researcher Dr. Nancy Sohler:"Providers taking care of severely disadvantaged, HIV-infected patients, like those in our sample should be aware that many of their patients may experience, perceive, and/or fear discrimination from within the healthcare system."

Sohler and team from City University of New York surveyed 523 New York City area residents of temporary housing facilities for people with HIV.

Perceived discrimination was determined by asking participants if someone in the healthcare system had ever shown hostility or lack of respect toward them, ever paid less attention to them than others, or had ever refused them service. Out of those surveyed, 40 percent believed they had experienced discrimination. Of this group, 60 percent concluded that an underlying reason was their HIV infection, 50 percent cited drug use, 35 percent said it was because of homelessness, and race and ethnicity were implicated by 35 percent.

Those who perceived discrimination were significantly more likely to give lower ratings for quality of healthcare and trust in HIV care providers, according to the researchers.

"Our data show that perceived discrimination is a strong and consistent predictor of poor ratings of the healthcare system, which may negatively influence health behaviors. Thus, it is crucial for providers to address discrimination with their patients", Sohler concluded.


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