ROME, 18 July 2011: Today, the Pool announces it has begun negotiations with Boehringer-Ingelheim and Bristol-Myers Squibb for patents on HIV medicines essential to treating people living with HIV in the developing world. The Pool was already in negotiation with five other patent holders and concluded its first licensing agreement with a leading pharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences, a week ago.
The UN has set a target of treating 15 million people by 2015. Reaching this goal is possible, but only if appropriate, affordable treatments can be made widely accessible to the people who need them. The Medicines Patent Pool, established by UNITAID in July 2010, is working to bring down the prices of HIV drugs and encourage the development of new formulations, such as medicines for children, through voluntary licensing of critical intellectual property.
“It is morally wrong that 9 million are waiting for treatment and that 5,000 people are dying every day of AIDS-related illnesses,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. “Sharing innovation and patents will drive down the price of medicines and bring antiretroviral treatment to millions more people.”
“Of all pharmaceutical companies with HIV medicines patents, only three are currently not in negotiation with the Pool. We call on Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Abbott to follow the lead of their colleagues and enter into negotiations with us,” said Ellen ‘t Hoen, executive director of the Medicines Patent Pool.
The Medicines Patent Pool and Gilead Sciences agreement is for 5 products for the treatment of HIV and Hepatitis B: the medicines tenofovir, emtricitabine, cobicistat, and elvitegravir, and a combination of these medicines in a single pill known as the “Quad.”
Cobicistat, elvitegravir and the Quad are products still in clinical development. Public health licensing of products in clinical development is rare and is an important advance in a field where many potentially valuable medicines are still in the developmental phase. This licence will allow for generic versions of new products to enter the market shortly after the products are available in rich countries.
In one short year since its creation by UNITAID, the Medicines Patent Pool has progressed from a newly minted idea to an organisation with growing momentum that has already begun to change the way intellectual property is managed for public health. The Pool announced its creation at the 2010 International AIDS Society meeting in Vienna, and is pleased to share its progress on the occasion of the 2011 IAS, taking place 17-20 July in Rome.
The Pool received its first licence, related to the medicine darunavir, from the United States National Institutes of Health in September 2010. The Pool has also received high-level political endorsement from stakeholders recognizing the potential public health benefits of a fully functioning Pool, including the World Health Organization, the UN High Level Meeting on HIV, and the G8.
Negotiations also continue with F. Hoffman-La Roche, Sequoia Pharmaceuticals, the US National Institutes of Health and ViiV Healthcare (a joint venture of GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer).
“UNITAID has worked for four years to develop the Medicines Patent Pool concept. Today we are proud to see that it is becoming a tangible reality,” said Philippe Douste-Blazy, chair of the UNITAID Executive Board. “I salute these important steps by Gilead and other pharmaceutical companies and urge other pharmaceutical companies to place their patents at the service of global public health.”