Forbes Examines Ongoing Discussions Over HIV/AIDS Drugs Patent Pools

Forbes examines the ongoing discussions between aid groups and drug manufacturers over the formation of an HIV/AIDS drugs patent pool to help drive down costs for developing countries.

“The concept is for drug manufacturers like Merck or Gilead Sciences to give a limited number of generic drug makers access to the intellectual property for AIDS drugs that are commonplace in North America and Europe but have not reached places like sub-Saharan Africa or parts of Asia. Competition between multiple generic drug makers would then drive prices down dramatically, making the latest AIDS drugs available in even the poorest parts of the world,” the magazine writes. “Since the patent pool license would only apply to a select number of poorer countries, the patent pool could save lives without hurting sales in rich countries, intellectual property lawyers say,” according to the article (Bahree/Herper, 12/10).

“It sounds straightforward, but the politics are anything but,” Forbes writes in a second story. “Three years after UNITAID broached the [patent pool] idea, it says that so far only Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson and Merck are ‘actively engaged’ in negotiating with UNITAID over the patent pool. Since February UNITAID has been lobbying 9 other drugmakers and 17 generics manufacturers to sit down and discuss the idea,” Forbes writes.

The article examines the divisions between HIV/AIDS advocates, who want countries in Africa, as well as India, China, Brazil and Thailand, to have access to the drugs, and drug makers, who say such broad access could be a “deal-braker” – an issue that will be discussed during a UNITAID board meeting this month. The article also features comments from branded and generic drug company representatives and an on-the-ground aid worker in Africa, who expresses concern about growing resistance to first-line antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimens due to a lack of drug access (Bahree/Herper [2], 12/10).