Feature story

The Medicines Patent Pool announces negotiations with two additional pharmaceutical companies for patents on HIV medicines

18 July 2011

Credit: UNAIDS

The Medicines Patent Pool has begun negotiations with Boehringer-Ingelheim and Bristol-Myers Squibb for patents on HIV medicines essential to treating people living with HIV in the developing world. The announcement was made today during the IAS 2011 conference. The Pool was already in negotiation with five other patent holders and concluded its first licensing agreement with a leading pharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences, a week ago.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé welcomed the news because “sharing innovation and patents will drive down the price of medicines and bring antiretroviral treatment to millions more people.”

“It is morally wrong that nine million are waiting for treatment and that 5 000 people are dying every day of AIDS-related illnesses,” Mr Sidibé added.

“Of all pharmaceutical companies with HIV medicines patents, only three are currently not in negotiation with the Pool. We call on Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Abbott to follow the lead of their colleagues and enter into negotiations with us,” said Ellen ‘t Hoen, Executive Director of the Medicines Patent Pool.

The Medicines Patent Pool and Gilead Sciences agreement is for five products for the treatment of HIV and Hepatitis B: the medicines tenofovir, emtricitabine, cobicistat, and elvitegravir, and a combination of these medicines in a single pill known as the “Quad.”

Sharing innovation and patents will drive down the price of medicines and bring antiretroviral treatment to millions more people

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé

Public health licensing of products in clinical development is rare and is an important advance in a field where many potentially valuable medicines are still in the developmental phase. This licence will allow for generic versions of new products to enter the market shortly after the products are available in rich countries. 

"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 other pharmaceutical companies and urge other pharmaceutical companies to place their patents at the service of global public health."

The Medicines Patent Pool was established by UNITAID in July 2010 to work towards bringing down the prices of HIV drugs and encouraging the development of new formulations, such as medicines for children, through voluntary licensing of critical intellectual property.