[Ip-health] MSF statement: Johnson & Johnson/ Tibotec AIDS Drug Licenses Leave Out Too Many Patients

Katy Athersuch katy.athersuch at googlemail.com
Fri Jan 28 08:47:50 PST 2011


*Johnson & Johnson/ Tibotec AIDS Drug Licenses Leave Out Too Many Patients

 *Geneva**, 28 January 2011* – Licenses just agreed between three generic
manufacturers and pharmaceutical company Tibotec, owned by Johnson &
Johnson, will keep a promising new AIDS medicine out of the hands of many
patients across the developing world, the international medical humanitarian
organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.  The licenses
exclude many developing countries where Johnson & Johnson/ Tibotec will
likely charge high prices. Other precise restrictions introduced by the
agreement must be scrutinised carefully.

Tibotec has licensed production of the antiretroviral medicine rilpivirine
to one South African and two Indian manufacturers, but has limited the
geographic scope of the licenses such that all of Latin America, Central
Asia and most Caribbean and South East Asian countries will not be able to
receive generic versions of the medicine. Given the restrictive licensing,
these countries may not be able to import generic versions from India even
if they override patents in their countries through compulsory licenses.

In Brazil, Tibotec charges more than $6,000 per patient per year for another
AIDS medicine, darunavir, and a license it has agreed for Africa has led to
a price tag of more than $1,000 per patient per year for the same drug,
nearly eight times more than the recommended standard triple combination.
Rilpivirine is also likely to be priced high in developing countries not
covered by the new licenses.

“While it’s encouraging to see Tibotec is thinking about access to this drug
for patients in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s very unfortunate that the company
has chosen to be restrictive and discriminatory by issuing licenses that
look more like a franchise than actual generic competition,” said Dr. Tido
von Schoen-Angerer, Executive Director of MSF’s Campaign for Access to
Essential Medicines.

Licenses are urgently needed to allow production of affordable generic
versions of newer AIDS medicines because new medicines have increasingly
been granted patents in key generics producing countries such as India, as
required by international trade rules.  MSF has supported both the use of
compulsory licensing and a fair voluntary licensing mechanism through the
establishment of the Medicines Patent Pool, because voluntary licenses
between companies, such as the ones offered by Tibotec this week, have
typically been too restrictive.

MSF has written to the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and other companies that
produce AIDS medicines, asking them to put their patents in to the
newly-established Medicines Patent Pool. The Patent Pool mechanism would
allow any number of generic manufacturers to produce more affordable
versions and fixed-dose combinations that combine two or more medicines into
one pill. Unlike this limited Tiobtec license, the licenses the Patent Pool
received from the US National Institutes of Health related to Tibotec's HIV
medicine darunavir included all developing countries, in line with the
Patent Pool’s aim.

“It is easy to make voluntary licenses work for commercial interests – the
challenge is making them work for both commercial and public health needs so
we can tackle the AIDS epidemic,” said von Schoen-Angerer.  “We urge Johnson
& Johnson to establish better license conditions and include its patents in
the Patent Pool.”

MSF relies upon affordable generic medicines to provide AIDS treatment to
160,000 people across the developing world.  Affordable generic medicines
have played a major role in scaling up AIDS treatment to more than five
million people in developing countries, but a further ten million people in
urgent need of AIDS medicines are still waiting.


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