[Ip-health] MSF response to the licensing deal announced between Merck and Cipla for the HIV medicine raltegravir

Joanna Keenan-Siciliano joanna.l.keenan at gmail.com
Fri Feb 21 05:19:11 PST 2014

MSF response to the licensing deal announced between US pharmaceutical firm
Merck Sharp & Dohme and Cipla for the HIV medicine raltegravir

 Raltegravir is an important HIV medicine currently used to treat patients
who have failed both first- and second-line antiretroviral treatment. It
was among the first HIV medicines to be patented in India, and with the
patent not expiring before 2022, open generic competition on this medicine
is blocked. Middle-income countries currently pay more than US$5,000 per
patient per year for raltegravir, with MSF paying over $1,700 per patient
per year for raltegravir in our treatment programmes in India.

While the terms and conditions of the deal between Merck and Cipla have not
been made public, it is clear from their statement that this is not a
licence to open up production and supply of a generic version of
raltegravir. Rather, it is a deal that will allow Merck to use Cipla's
extensive marketing and distribution network in India to sell its patented
product under a different brand name. There is no clarity on what the price
of the product will be.

Merck and Cipla need to make the terms of the deal public so the Indian
government, people living with HIV, groups working on access to medicines,
treatment providers and other affected organisations and stakeholders can
make an independent assessment of the agreement and any restrictive
conditions it entails.

The process of pursuing a compulsory licence for this drug should be
continued, as Merck's past deals for raltegravir (with Mylan/Emcure) do not
have a track record of boosting generic production or the availability of
affordable versions of the drug in a significant way for Indian patients or
those in other developing countries. It appears that Merck is signing this
deal to prevent the Ministry of Health from recommending a compulsory
licence for public non-commercial use of raltegravir to the Ministry of
Commerce, which would allow open generic competition on the drug.
Raltegravir is on the list of patented drugs a committee constituted on
compulsory licensing in the Ministry of Health is looking into.


"The licence deal between Merck and Cipla is a huge disappointment because
it does not allow for generic competition among multiple producers that
could lead to the dramatic 90% price decreases we've seen for other HIV
medicines in India and other developing countries. India's Ministry of
Health should still pursue a compulsory licence on raltegravir to allow
broad competition so that truly affordable generic versions of this drug
are available to people across the developing world.It is not up to
companies to decide what reasonable a price or terms are--it's the
government that needs to decide whether or not such marketing arrangements
between Indian companies and large pharmaceutical companies undermine or
improve access to medicines at affordable prices."

*- Leena Menghaney, Coordinator, Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign,

*Joanna Keenan*
Press Officer
Médecins Sans Frontières - Access Campaign
P: +41 22 849 87 45
M: +41 79 203 13 02
E: joanna.keenan[at]geneva.msf.org
T: @joanna_keenan


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