By Mario Ritter

This is the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

The United States has asked the World Trade Organization to rule in a dispute. The dispute is between the Brazilian government and several large international companies that make drugs to treat the disease AIDS. The case is important because it could affect many developing nations that suffer from the AIDS crisis.

International drug companies say a Brazilian law that forces them to make AIDS drugs in Brazil is unfair. The Brazilian law says foreign companies must make their AIDS drugs in Brazil or have their sales rights limited. Brazil says AIDS is a national emergency and that W-T-O trade rules permit Brazil to take measures to make AIDS drugs less costly.

Several drugs have been developed that successfully control the H-I-V virus that causes AIDS. However, more than one drug is needed to fight the virus effectively. A combination of two or three drugs reduces the level of H-I-V in the blood of an infected person. This is often called a drug program.

Several large international drug companies each developed one or more of the drugs used to control H-I-V. The companies hold legal rights over the sale of these drugs.

The W-T-O protects the trade rights of drug companies under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights rules. These rules are designed to protect the rights of all companies and individuals who invent or create some product for sale. However, the rules are observed only in member nations of the W-T-O. Other developing nations can make separate agreements with international drug companies.

In industrial countries, an AIDS drug program for one person costs more than ten-thousand dollars a year. Brazil now produces an AIDS drug program for about three-thousand dollars. It says the cost to make the drugs could be reduced further. However, international drug companies say they are being hurt by Brazil's method for reducing the cost of the drugs.

Drug companies in other countries are also making AIDS drugs at a reduced cost. An Indian company recently announced plans to sell a one-year AIDS drug program for three-hundred-fifty dollars to a doctors' group working in Africa. The group, Doctors Without Borders, has led a campaign to force international drug companies to cut prices on drugs for the world's poorest people.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Mario Ritter.

Voice of America Special English