WORLD AIDS DAY, 1 DECEMBER 2012: For the first time in the history of the HIV epidemic, more than half of those who need treatment have access to it. This represents extraordinary progress, and a life-saving development for the 8 million people now on antiretroviral therapy.
The international community has made a commitment to reach 15 million with HIV treatment by 2015, and this goal is clearly attainable – if affordable, adapted HIV drugs are made more widely available.
One way to ensure available, affordable HIV medicines is for key pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily license their products to the Medicines Patent Pool. The Medicines Patent Pool has been endorsed by the World Health Organization, the UN High Level Meeting on AIDS, and the Group of 8 as a promising innovative approach to improve access to HIV medicines.
On World AIDS Day, the Pool calls on companies holding key HIV medicines to grant broad, access-oriented licences to the Pool as soon as possible.
A new, updated working paper released today from the Medicines Patent Pool provides a list of the priority medicines that should be licensed to the Pool [link], based on an analysis of clinical need and likely patent barriers. Research by the Pool presented at the 2012 International AIDS Conference lays out key access related terms and conditions that the Pool strives to meet in its licences [pdf].
Already, licensing agreements made through the Pool are beginning to change the way medicines are made available for people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries. Key first-line HIV medicine tenofovir is now available at lower prices and in more countries than previously.
And in August, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a new fixed-dose combination treatment for HIV, the Quad. Usually there are delays of many years between when new medicines are approved in developed countries and when they become available in developing countries. But through Medicines Patent Pool licences, production on the Quad in developing countries will begin much sooner. Technology transfer has already begun to further speed the process.
“The Medicines Patent Pool works for all stakeholders – it facilitates market access for generic companies, allows patent holders a fair royalty stream and a way to collaborate towards enhancing access in developing countries, and most importantly allows people living with HIV easier access to the quality medicines they need to survive,” said Chan Park, Interim Executive Director of the Pool.
Two years ago on World AIDS Day, the Pool formally invited eight pharmaceutical companies to join the Pool in making medicines available to stop the rising tide of the HIV epidemic.
So far, one company – Gilead Sciences – and one research body – the US National Institutes of Health – have given licences to the Pool. Four additional companies are in negotiations to do so: Boehringer-Ingelheim, Bristo-Myers Squibb, F. Hoffman-La Roche and ViiV Healthcare [a joint venture of GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Shinogi]. Three companies have so far remained outside: Abbott Laboratories, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck.
The Pool urges the remaining three companies to enter negotiations with the Pool, and for those in talks to conclude public heath-oriented and transparent licensing agreements benefiting people living with HIV in developing countries.