[Ip-health] Financial Times on AIDS >ViiV voluntary licensing / patent pool update / Austria not contributing to GF

Guillaume.Bonnet at geneva.msf.org Guillaume.Bonnet at geneva.msf.org
Wed Jul 21 23:37:18 PDT 2010

Pharmaceutical groups set up generics initiative

By Andrew Jack in Vienna

Published: July 21 2010 22:00 | Last updated: July 21 2010 22:00

Three of the world’s largest pharmaceutical groups have agreed to offer
manufacturers of generic drugs royalty-free rights to all their existing
and experimental HIV medicines to sell at low cost in developing countries,
in a snub to a United Nations-backed rival “patent pool”.

Dominique Limet, head of ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture between
GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer for their HIV medicines that also includes new
drugs compounds being developed by Shionogu of Japan, said he preferred to
“move quickly to accelerate access” rather than sign up to the pool being
established with funding from Unitaid, which raises money from governments
to buy medicines for the poor.

The move allows generic drug makers able to guarantee quality the right to
sell the drugs in 69 least-developed countries. It will have little
financial impact on the three pharmaceutical companies, given the low
prices they would be able to charge in poor countries. But it opens the
possibility of far lower manufacturing costs for generic drug companies.

It comes just as Ellen ’t Hoen, who is co-ordinating the patent pool, said
it was “ready for business”.

Urging pharmaceutical companies to join the patent pool has become a
rallying cry for many HIV activists in recent months including Médecins
Sans Frontières, which argues intellectual property rights on newer drugs
are limiting access to the poor.

Ms ’t Hoen told the Financial Times that Merck, Gilead and Tibotec, part of
Johnson & Johnson, were among the companies that had expressed most support
for the pool, which would ask them to assign their patents on medicines for
use by generic drug companies in exchange for a 5 per cent royalty.

She said she had recently brokered discussions with Abbott, and was
planning shortly to meet Bristol Myers Squibb, two of the remaining HIV
drug producers that have traditionally been less willing to endorse the

Precise terms are still under negotiation, with generic companies arguing
the pool will not be financially attractive unless the patent rights allow
them to produce for middle-income countries such as Brazil, while the
patent-holders prefer to control richer markets while offering them at
discounts to western prices.

A €4.7m ($6m, £4m) initial budget for the first year has been allocated for
the pool, which has just been incorporated as a Swiss foundation. Ms ‘t
Hoen said she hoped within a year to announce some deals. She said top
priorities for medicines that should be made available more cheaply for the
poor included a planned new combination of Gilead’s tenofovir with an
experimental compound from Tibotec; and a protease inhibitor suitable for

Mr Limet said: “The pool’s key focus has been political in getting access
to IP without explaining how it will work. It’s not the issue. It’s about
the will and money to invest in new drugs, and ensuring there is enough
demand and infrastructure to ensure access. The €4.7m they will spend could
save thousands of lives [by buying drugs.]”

●The Austrian government came under attack for contributing just €1m to the
Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria since its creation in 2001, by
far the lowest contribution among important EU countries. Michel
Kazatchkine told the International Aids Conference in Vienna it was
“shameful,” noting that Vienna is estimated to generate €45m simply by
hosting the conference this year.

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Guillaume Bonnet, Press officer

Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières
Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines

mobile: +41 79 203 13 02
direct line: +41 22 849 84 03

skype: guillaume_bonnet_msf

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