[Ip-health] GlaxoSmithKline promises reduced drug patents to help world's poor

Zack Struver zack.struver at keionline.org
Thu Mar 31 06:55:36 PDT 2016


Life | Thu Mar 31, 2016 9:22am EDT Related: HEALTH

GlaxoSmithKline promises reduced drug patents to help world's poor


​GlaxoSmithKline is to adopt a graduated approach to patenting its
medicines, depending on the wealth of different countries, in order to make
drugs more affordable in the developing world.

Britain's biggest drugmaker said on Thursday it would not file patents in
low-income states, leaving the way clear for generic companies to make
cheap copies of its drugs without fear of being sued.

For lower middle-income countries, GSK will seek patents but it aims to
strike license deals that allow supplies of generic versions of its
medicines for 10 years. These licenses are expected to earn GSK a "small"
sales royalty.

Together, the moves will cover about 85 countries with a combined
population of more than 2 billion.

The company will continue to seek full patent protection in high- and upper
middle-income countries, as well as members of the Group of 20 major
economies, including China, Brazil and India.

It is the latest move by the pharmaceuticals industry to address criticism
that many new drugs are simply too expensive for billions of people in
Africa, Asia and Latin America.

GSK Chief Executive Andrew Witty has long been a proponent of improving
drug access and the initiative may consolidate his reputation in the field
before he steps down as chief executive next year.

Raymond Hill, former president of the British Pharmacological Society and
visiting professor at Imperial College London, said it was a brave step.
"It sets a precedent for other major multinational pharma companies to
follow," he said.

The wider industry has increasingly adopted a policy of tiered pricing for
poor countries, but the decision to waive patent rights in certain areas
goes a step further in opening the door to competition.

Witty said patent protection remained vital for rewarding investment in
research but more flexibility was needed. "We are trying to put together an
approach which is right for the right stage of maturity of the country," he
told reporters.

The initiative is expected to have only minimal impact on GSK's group
earnings, given the limited sales and profits generated in poor countries.

In addition, GSK said it intended to give developing countries access to
its next-generation cancer drugs by allowing competitors access to the
company's intellectual property through the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool

Knowledge Ecology International, a non-profit group working to curb
intellectual property barriers, said the move was welcome as access to
cancer drugs was far more unequal than for HIV and hepatitis treatments,
two areas where MPP is already active.

GSK sold its established cancer drugs to Novartis in an asset swap that
closed last year. It is still working on a number of experimental
immuno-oncology and epigenetic cancer therapies.

(Editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton)​

Zack Struver, Communications and Research Associate
Knowledge Ecology International
zack.struver at keionline.org
Twitter: @zstruver <https://twitter.com/zstruver>
Office: +1 (202) 332-2670 Cell: +1 (914) 582-1428

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