Update on the Patent Pool
The Medicines Patent Pool was established in September 2010 by UNITAID and is now independent. It was created to make it simpler for generic manufacturers to produce low cost, effective HIV drugs. Both the US and UK governments support this initiative.
Since its launch it has made progress. Recently the project announced that Gilead, Roche, Sequoia and ViiV (Pfizer/GSK) have agreed to enter into negotiations regarding the licensing of their HIV drugs. This is a major step forward.
Prior to this, most companies took the position that allowing their medicines to be produced by specific generic manufacturers was sufficient to discharge their responsibility towards universal global access to treatment.
Whilst getting these companies to collaborate is a significant achievement, there is still much to be done.
Campaigners will now be focusing their lobbying on companies refusing to engage with the patent pool. This includes Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson
In early April, students from the UK organisation STOP AIDS began protests at Johnson and Johnson HQ and at pharmacies across London as the start of a campaign to get the company to change its mind and start negotiations with the patent pool.
Johnson & Johnsons refusal to enter into talks is problematic as the US NIH has already reached agreement with the patent pool for the rights they own on darunavir. Johnson and Johnson own the remainder of the patent rights, so they will be blocking generic production of darunavir through the patent pool if they do not reconsider.
For this initiative to work it it critical that all the manufacturers of currently needed drugs are involved. Otherwise it is likely that treatment strategies will be driven less by medical priorities and more by which companies are prepared to negotiate the best deals.
More information can be found at the following website:
ViiV Press Release:
Details of the STOP AIDS campaign: