[Ip-health] Bridges Weekly: UNITAID Launches Patent Pool for HIV/AIDS Drugs
thiru at keionline.org
Wed Jun 9 23:56:39 PDT 2010
Intellectual Property Programme • Volume 14 • Number 21 • 9th June 2010
UNITAID Launches Patent Pool for HIV/AIDS Drugs
A “patent pool” that promises to spur innovation and lower costs for
state-of-the-art HIV/AIDS treatment took a big step closer to becoming
a reality on Tuesday, with a crucial procedural decision that sets up
an entity that can negotiate with the makers of key drugs to secure
access to their intellectual property.
After months of negotiations, the executive board of UNITAID, the
international drug purchasing facility that has spearheaded the push
for a drug patent pool, formally approved an agreement to set up a
Medicines Patent Pool Foundation and provide it with US$4.4 million in
funds for its first year.
“What this means in practical terms,” explained Philippe Douste-Blazy,
chair of UNITAID’s executive board, “is that formal negotiations with
the patent holders can now begin. We expect the Patent Pool
Foundation to have its first licenses within a year.”
Douste-Blazy, a doctor and former French minister for health and
foreign affairs, told Intellectual Property Watch that the decision
“should save millions of lives of people living with HIV across the
A patent pool brings together (”pools”) multiple patents belonging to
different owners, and makes them available to third parties against
the payment of a royalty.
UNITAID believes that pooling the patents for key HIV/AIDS drugs would
make it simpler, and cheaper, for researchers and drug manufacturers
other than the patent-holders to access important intellectual
property. This would facilitate competition and hence, lower prices,
since several different manufacturers could pay the royalty, and then
access the intellectual property in the pool to make drugs for sale in
developing countries. The ‘one-stop shop’ for intellectual property
would also enable innovation, since it would become easier for
companies to access the different patents needed to create new fixed-
dose combinations, included badly needed ones for children.
UNITAID wants the patent pool to focus initially on HIV/AIDS medicines
that are expensive (the newer, ‘second-line’ medicines that receive
patent protection in India, a major source of low-cost versions of
older drugs) or unavailable (formulations that can withstand hot
temperatures, as well as those for children). It wants the licence
agreements with patent holders to cover both low- and middle-income
developing countries - covering only the former might mean a market
for generics too small to yield adequate price reductions.
Sources say that the statutes of the Medicines Patent Pool Foundation,
which have been filed with the Swiss authorities, include provisions
to prevent drugs created via access to the eventual pool from being
diverted to developed country markets, where the companies that will
be asked to license their patents make much of their money.
The Medicines Patent Pool Foundation will be a Swiss non-profit
foundation, independent from UNITAID or its host, the World Health
Organization. The reason for creating a separate legal entity, instead
of having UNITAID house the patent pool, was that patent-holders might
have been reluctant to license drugs to a UN-affiliated body. The UN’s
various legal privileges and immunities might have made legal recourse
difficult if they were unhappy with how their intellectual property
was being used.
The three members of the foundation’s board that have been confirmed
so far are Bernard Pécoul, the head of the Drugs for Neglected
Diseases initiative, Charles Clift, a well-known expert on
intellectual property and health, and Paulo Teixeira, the former head
of Brazil’s national AIDS programme.
Ellen ‘t Hoen, a senior adviser on intellectual property and the
medicines patent pool with UNITAID, said that there was now a
“complete green light” to transfer money to the new foundation, which
will start operations in the weeks to come. But the creation of the
Medicines Patent Pool Foundation allows negotiations to start with
pharmaceutical companies such as ViiV and Gilead, not the ultimate goal.
“What the world is waiting for is concrete results from the patent
pool,” she said. “Now the hard work can start.”
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)
thiru at keionline.org
Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997
More information about the Ip-health