WHO Treatment Guidelines 2013: How the Medicines Patent Pool Can Help Bridge the Treatment Gap

At the International AIDS Society Conference held in Malaysia earlier this month, the World Health Organization announced updates to its recommended HIV treatment guidelines. These guidelines are the roadmap for those treating people living with HIV.

Significantly, the WHO guidelines identify as key treatments medicines that have been licensed to the MPP.

Through agreements signed with Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare, the MPP has pooled patents on key medicines that the WHO recommends for first line treatment for both adults (tenofivir) and children (abacavir). Generic pharmaceutical manufacturers partnered with the MPP are already working to produce these treatments and make them more widely available in low- and middle-income countries.

The new WHO guidelines have also recommended that ARV treatment should commence earlier in the disease progression. This means the number of people urgently needing treatment will immediately rise from 17 million to 26 million.1 Taking into account that only 9.7 million people currently have access to treatment, the need for affordable HIV treatment – for both adults and children – has become especially critical.

In an era of financial instability and donor restraint, this increases the urgency to find solutions that bridge the gaps between innovation, treatment, and access. The MPP offers a public health driven business model as one key way to help ensure that the new access to medicines targets set by the WHO can be realised, using WHO-recommended treatments, while still supporting and encouraging innovation on needed new medicines.

By working in collaboration with partners from the pharmaceutical industry, civil society, government and IGOs, the MPP seeks to:

  • Increase access to affordable, generic versions of key priority HIV treatments for adults and children
  • Spur innovation on needed new treatments, such as specialized formulations for children, through the pooling of key HIV medicines patents

2013 is a benchmark year for HIV treatment and the MPP will seek to respond to the needs of people living with HIV in developing countries through the continued implementation of its public health driven model.

1 WHO now recommends beginning treatment when CD4 count reaches 500, earlier than the previous recommended treatment commencing at CD4 350. The WHO has recommended all children under 5 years of age be given treatment regardless of CD4 count (previous recommendations said that children under 3 should be given treatment regardless of CD4). Both these recommendations are a major step forward for the future treatment of HIV.

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