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In a bid to gain access to a costly AIDS drug sold by ViiV Healthcare, Kazakhstan officials may go to court and pursue a compulsory license, the latest dispute in which a cash-strapped government is considering sidestepping patents in order to provide medicines to its citizens.

At issue is a blockbuster treatment called dolutegravir that is sold under the Tivicay brand name by the company, which is actually a venture largely controlled by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), although Pfizer (PFE) and Shionogi have small stakes. ViiV was formed a decade ago to concentrate on developing HIV and AIDS drugs, which have regularly been a flashpoint in the global debate over access to medicines.

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