Venezuela may abolish drug patents

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, is on a tear against private enterprise. Earlier this month, his government banned Coke Zero over health concerns. And he's threatening to take over a Pfizer plant. His latest target: drug companies. From the Americas Desk at WLRN in Miami, here's Marketplace's Dan Grech.


Dan Grech: President Hugo Chavez says medical discoveries should belong to the world. His government plans to invalidate some pharmaceutical patents. Local producers would then create cheaper generic versions of popular AIDS and cancer drugs.

Ian Vasquez with the Cato Institute says Big Pharma may stop selling drugs to Venezuela. That could lead to shortages -- particularly of the newest medicines. But a boycott on drug exports wouldn't force Venezuela to recognize international property rights.

Ian Vasquez: A boycott at this point is almost superfluous since what the Venezuela government has declared is that their property is being stolen and going to be used anyway.

Vasquez says the real risk for pharmaceutical companies is Venezuela could sell its generic drugs to other countries. That could undermine the profits even further.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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