[Ip-health] MSF: First patent goes into the Medicines Patent Pool - Drug companies must now follow suit

Michelle.VILK at geneva.msf.org Michelle.VILK at geneva.msf.org
Thu Sep 30 08:58:32 PDT 2010


Geneva/New York – 30 September 2010 – The U.S. National Institutes of
Health announced today it will license a patent on the HIV medicine
darunavir to the Medicines Patent Pool, a mechanism designed to boost
access to more affordable AIDS drugs in the developing world.  The move
acts as a wake-up call to pharmaceutical companies to put patents on key
AIDS medicines into the Pool, according to international humanitarian
medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders, or

“This demonstrates serious political backing for the Medicines Patent Pool
to benefit all developing countries, and the fact that the NIH has also
agreed to review its entire ARV portfolio with the intention of putting
other patents in the Pool is very promising,” said Dr. Tido von
Schoen-Angerer, Director of MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential
Medicines.  “But this single patent isn’t enough to allow a cheaper version
of the medicine to be produced.  We need to build on this - the onus is on
the drug companies that own patents on this and other key AIDS medicines to
put their patents in the Pool.”

This particular NIH patent will not free the way for generic versions of
darunavir, because additional patents are held by Tibotec (owned by US firm
Johnson & Johnson).

MSF currently treats over 160,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, largely
thanks to the availability of affordable generic versions of antiretroviral
drugs.  But the lack of access to newer AIDS medicines is a crisis today
for our patients.

“HIV requires lifelong treatment, and patients will eventually need to move
on to newer medicines as they inevitably develop resistance – but these are
much more expensive,” said Dr. Peter Saranchuk, HIV doctor for MSF in South
Africa.  “Generic production of many of these drugs is blocked by
intellectual property barriers.  The Patent Pool could help overcome these
hurdles, but only if the licences cover all developing countries.”

Significantly, the licence terms offered by the NIH include middle-income
countries. Many of these have large numbers of people on HIV treatment, but
are not eligible for the price discounts offered by drug companies, making
access to patented medicines extremely difficult.

“The only benchmark we should use to judge the Patent Pool is the impact it
has on patients’ lives,” said von Schoen-Angerer. “If companies are genuine
about wanting to boost access to newer medicines, then they must license
the patents that are actually blocking generic production and will make a
real difference to people’s lives.  The clock is ticking for patients, so
countries should also consider compulsory measures, as is their right under
international law. This will be even more important if companies refuse to
support an effective Patent Pool.”

The US Government’s support of the Medicines Patent Pool is significant,
not least because it establishes the principle that publically-funded
research like the NIH’s should be for the public benefit.  The US
Government now needs to recognise that more needs to be done, and also
increase funding available for AIDS through PEPFAR and the Global Fund.

For further information, please contact:
Guillaume Bonnet, MSF, Geneva +41 79 203 13 02
Sandra Murillo, MSF, New York +1 646 207 0405

Note to editors:
Darunavir is a drug listed in World Health Organization guidelines as a
potential third-line for patients failing second-line treatment. The drug
is under generic production in India but supplying countries where patent
barriers are in place is not possible. The molecule was developed by NIH
and the University of Illinois in Chicago, subsequently licensed to the
company Tibotec, which later filed patents on new forms of the drug, making
generic production difficult in a number of countries.

A patent pool for medicines has the potential to increase access to
patented medicines for people living with HIV in the developing world, by
creating a structure for patent holders to share their HIV drug patents and
receive royalties in return. Drug companies can then access these patents
to produce more affordable versions of the patented medicines. Companies
are financially rewarded, and patients benefit from access to more
affordable medicines.

MSF has developed a list of the key AIDS medicines that should be put in
the Pool.  These include darunavir (patent held by Tibotec/Johnson &
Johnson), atazanavir (Bristol-Myers Squibb), ritonavir (Abbott),
raltegravir (Merck), etravirine (Tibotec/Johnson & Johnson), tenofovir
(Gilead), and a number of other antiretrovirals.

Kind regards,

Michelle Vilk

Coordination and Communications Assistant
Médecins Sans Frontières
Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines
Rue de Lausanne 78
1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: + 41(0) 22 849 89 02
Fax: + 41 (0) 22 849 84 04
michelle.vilk at geneva.msf.org

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