Rome, 18 July 2011 - Unitaid welcomes today's announcement made at the IAS AIDS conference in Rome that the Medicines Patent Pool has started negotiations with Boehringer-Ingelheim and Bristol-Myers Squibb for patents on HIV medicines essential for treating people living with HIV and AIDS in the developing world.
The Pool was already in negotiation with five other patent holders and concluded its first licensing agreement with a leading pharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences, announced a week ago by the Patent Pool and UNITAID in London.
"UNITAID has worked for four years to develop the Medicines Patent Pool concept. Today we are proud to see that it is becoming a tangible reality," said Philippe Douste-Blazy, chair of the UNITAID Executive Board. "I salute these important steps by Gilead and urge other pharmaceutical companies to place their patents at the service of global public health."
UNITAID welcomes analysis of the licenses to ensure that each new agreement raises the floor and improves access to quality affordable, and appropriate HIV medicines.
The Gilead licenses agreements with the Patent Pool critically improve upon the status quo in a number of ways. First, the agreements with Gilead cover a broader geographic scope than current licenses. Second, there is nothing in the licenses that limits countries’ use of TRIPS flexibilities. Third, though this first agreement is limited to Indian manufacturers, a restriction UNITAID wishes to see improved upon in future licenses, we also recognize that India currently produces 90 percent of generic antiretroviral medicines distributed and used by people living in Sub-Saharan African, the region with the highest burden of HIV. Fourth, a number of other important public health protections are included in the agreements including waivers of data exclusivity.
The unprecedented transparency of the agreement (available here: http://www.medicinespatentpool.org/LICENSING/Current-Licences/Medicines-Patent-Pool-and-Gilead-Licence-Agreement) enables this helpful analysis and debate.
Further, UNITAID reiterates once again the need for current negotiations on free trade agreements with India to avoid any negative impact on India’s ability to continue to supply affordable generic AIDS treatments to the developing world.
The Gilead licences and the start of negotiations with Boehringer-Ingelheim and Bristol-Myers Squibb will be critical steps towards improving access to ARVs by increasing competition between generic manufacturers and as a result will make these ARV treatments more affordable.
UNITAID urges the remaining companies not in negotiations with the Pool, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Abbott, to join the pool in order to facilitate the development of new fixed-dose combinations, new paediatric formulations, and lower-cost medicines to enable wider treatment of people in developing countries.