Patents and health care in developing countries:  ViiV Healthcare joins the Medicine Patent Pool

Article written by: Dr Stephanie Grant    |   Monday 15th April 2013

ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture between Glaxosmithkline and Pfizer, have announced their collaboration with Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) providing lower cost HIV medicines to those in developing countries.

UNITAID is hosted by the WHO and is funded through levies on air tickets a number of countries including the founding countries of France, United Kingdom, Brazil and Chile, and founded the MPP in 2010, as a way to lower the cost of HIV medications.  This is done through licensing key HIV patents and promoting the development of much needed formulations, especially in relation to paediatric medicine.  This improves medical treatment by negotiating licences from the patent holders of HIV medicines, and making those licences available to manufacturers of generics, allowing for more affordable versions of drugs long before the patent term expires.  It is hoped that MPP will also facilitate innovation by the generation of medicines adapted particularly for use in children.

According to the WHO there are 34 million people worldwide living with HIV.  There are estimated to be between 280,000 to 390,000 children with HIV living in sub-Saharan Africa, who have received inadequate treatment because among other things, many pharmaceuticals are not adapted for use in children.  The collaboration between ViiV and MPP will allow Abacavir, the WHO recommended paediatric antiviral, to be supplied under licence to 118 developing countries.  These countries are where significant numbers of HIV infected children live. 

The venture will also provide scope for future licence negotiations of other medicines that ViiV is developing, including Dolutegravir, which has recently been submitted for approval in the United States, Europe and Canada.  Both Abacavir and Dolutegravir are seen as being key medicines in the treatment of HIV in developing countries. 

Other Licences in the pool cover Gilead’s products: Tenofovir (TDF), Emtricitabine (FTC), Cobicistat (COBI), Elvitegravir (EVG) and the Quad [a combination of TDF, FTC, COBI, and EVG].  However, not all major pharmaceutical companies have agreed to the Medicines Patent Pool.  Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hoffman-La Roche and Boehringer-Ingelheim are currently in discussions regarding joining the scheme.  Abbott, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck have remained freestanding, although Johnson & Johnston have agreed not to enforce the patents they own and control on Darunavir, provided that Darunavir is used only in least developed countries.

This joining of ViiV and MPP appears to be a win-win solution all round.  Pharmaceutical companies are able to licence their products, generic manufacturers are able to produce patent protected products, and most importantly, treatment is within the reach of those that desperately need it in developing countries.


References:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/27/aids-drugs-patents-idUSL6N0BL8BY20130227
http://www.medicinespatentpool.org/
http://www.viivhealthcare.com/
http://www.who.int/en/
http://www.unitaid.eu/

UNAIDS Global Report 2012, http://www.unaids.org/en/
http://www.unitaid.eu/resources-2/events/9-uncategorised/401-innovation-levy
http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/global-issues/development-assistance/institutions-and-issues-of/innovative-ways-to-fund/unitaid-the-international/

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