Venezuela plans to scrap some pharmaceutical patents and allow domestic manufacturers to produce generic drugs.
Commerce Minister Eduardo Saman declared at the weekend that Venezuela's socialist government would annul patents on some medicines under a reform of existing intellectual-property laws.
Mr Saman explained that Caracas believes that the needs of Venezuelans suffering from diseases such as cancer or Aids must take priority over the profits of powerful drug corporations.
'We cannot allow transnational medicine companies to impose their rights on the Venezuelan people,' Mr Saman declared on state television.
'Patents have become a barrier to production and we cannot allow barriers to manufacture medicines, fertilisers, herbicides and agro-industrial products,' he said, adding that the country will 'revise all the doctrines and laws related to patents.'
Venezuela's pharmaceutical-business chamber president Edgar Salas responded by claiming that abolishing patents could prompt the world's largest drug manufacturers to stop exporting medicines to Venezuela.
'This could create obstacles to importing the newest medicines,' Mr Salas warned.
But Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that while 'a song is intellectual property, an invention or a scientific discovery should be knowledge for the world, especially medicine.
'That a laboratory does not allow us to make a medicine because they have the patent? No, no, no.'
Mr Chavez recently hit out at Swedish packaging maker Tetra Pak, saying that its patents on cartons were limiting production in Venezuela.
Speaking on his weekly Alo Presidente TV show, Mr Chavez said: 'We have aluminium and paper. Why can't we make that material here?
'What are patents? That's universal knowledge. We don't have to be subject to capitalist laws.'
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan premier called on the international community yesterday to respect Iran and the election 'triumph' of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
'We call on the world to respect Iran because there are attempts to undermine the strength of the Iranian revolution,' Mr Chavez declared in his weekly radio and television address.
He accused the Western mass media of 'trying to stain Ahmadinejad's triumph and through that weaken the government and the Islamic revolution,' adding that they 'will not succeed.'