Brazil’s Presidential Election: Pharmaceutical Policy Implications

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil is credited for the "nation's unparalleled clout on the global stage and a stable, growing economy". His center left credentials and policies are testimony to their workability in a leading developing country and evidence that while political orientation may be important, it is crucial to deliver on your promises. In 2002, world financial markets reacted negatively to his election but it certainly has not stopped many multinational firms exploring joint ventures with Brazilian firms and exploring methods of securing a piece of the Brazilian growth.

Brazilians go back to the voting stations on October 3 and in the interim the Worker's Party and Social Democrats are deciding who their Presidential candidate should be. Jose Serra is the Social Democrat candidate and a previous Health Minister in the Cardoso cabinet. Given his liberal roots and pressure from within his party, Serra is likely to privatize state-run enterprises, pursue the liberal agenda started by Cardoso, be more accommodating of US and European policies, and invite private sector participation in exploiting oil reserves. Serra has a tough battle ahead of him and it is likely he will depend on minority parties such as the Socialist People’s Party to broaden his support base. If so, his liberal policies may be tempered which may preserve the status quo.

Given these dynamics, what impact will Serra’s election have on pharmaceutical policy? He is credited for "defying the pharmaceutical lobby” and supported the introduction of cheap generic drugs and free ARVs. He also supported the growth of the generic manufacturing industry and establishing the Brazilian Food and Drug Administration, ANVISA.  His willingness to tackle pharmaceutical companies is likely to spill over into the tobacco industry. Furthermore, he leveraged flexibilities in the international and domestic trade regulatory regime to break Merck’s patent on Efavirenz and successfully implemented mechanisms to reduce its price.  This has not deterred multinational pharmaceutical companies from seeking opportunities in Brazil. In fact, Sanofi-Aventis, Aspen Pharmacare, and Celesio are some examples of firms jumping onto the 16% growth per annum (by 2013) of the pharmaceutical market.

Serra’s party ideology is at odds with his track record as a Health Minister. How does he plan reconciling liberal economic policies with state-led interventions in the pharmaceutical market? Will his center right party nullify much of the Brazilian success in pharmaceutical policy over the past decade? Will minority parties in his coalition have the final say of which way pharmaceutical policy swings? We’ll see in the months ahead whether Serra is elected as Brazil’s President and if so how he plans leading his country in the pharmaceutical policy domain.


  1. The toughest Brazilian presidential campaign in decades takes off
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  3. Brazil: Serra's Health Card

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  1. Joao Carapinha - 2010/07/13

    Brazil's Presidential Election: Pharmaceutical Policy Implications

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