BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -- Brazil's health minister says Latin America's biggest country will produce an inexpensive generic version of an AIDS drug made by Merck & Co.
Jose Gomes Temporao said Wednesday the decision to produce efavirenz, a generic version of Stocrin, was taken because Merck refused to reduce its price. Production should begin in the first half of 2009.
Last year, the Brazilian government rejected Merck's offer to sell the drug at a 30 percent discount -- for $1.10 per pill, down from $1.57. The country was seeking to purchase the drug at $0.65 per pill, the same price Thailand pays.
In May of 2007, Brazil bypassed the patent on efavirenz when the government issued a "compulsory license," a legal mechanism that allows a country to manufacture or buy generic versions of patented drugs while paying the patent holder only a small royalty.
Merck is headquartered in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey.